Lots of fun and lots of poignancy--a Kinks masterpiece
Dave | United States | 03/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Originally released in May of 1983, "State of Confusion" is a superb Kinks album. Ray Davies, like usual, wrote all of the songs on the album (including all the bonus tracks on the 1999 & 2004 Velvel Records reissues), and he's absolutely on top of his songwriting game with a seemingly endless supply of great songs up his sleeve. Also like usual, Ray produced the album himself, and did an excellent job, keeping the use of synthesizers in check, and the band sounds wonderfully inspired throughout.
The Kinks really rock it out on many of the songs. The hook-heavy title track is a dynamic rocker with excellent backing vocal harmonies. "Definite Maybe" is wonderfully cartoonish with bracing guitar chords and highly amusing lyrics about getting the runaround in daily life with no one giving a damn. "Cliches Of The World (B Movie)" is a a captivating epic about a man who feels crippled by the day-to-day routine of his life and dreams about being taken away to some utopian galaxy, featuring Ray's unforgettable raging cries of "just an illusion!". The high-energy, uptempo "Young Conversatives" is super fun with its biting and sarcastic lyrics, plus the sudden and hilarious referencing of the Kinks' own "David Watts" at 1:32 of the song. The bluesy mid-tempo rocker "Bernadette", a song left over from the "Give The People What They Want" era, puts a standard rock 'n' roll riff to excellent use, plus it offers us some more biting lyrics, and Dave's lead vocal is spirited even if it's a bit off-key. "Labour Of Love" is admittedly a little weak--the lyrics, about how couples can become their own worst enemies, are kind of thin--but it's still reasonably catchy and entertaining, with an intro that consists of Dave Davies doing an amusing take on "Here Comes The Bride" that deliberately recalls Hendrix's famous Woodstock performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Of course, there's also the reflective "Come Dancing", an irresistibly catchy, music hall-tinged pop-rocker that was a big time hit for the group. "Property" is an affecting ballad about what's left behind after a long-term relationship is over--it has a real understated power to it, with tender vocals from Ray and excellent use of Vocoder. "Don't Forget To Dance" is a slow-paced, atmospheric ballad with lyrics that try to give encouragement to a lonely, ageing woman--some of the lyrics feel badly forced, but it's still a really pretty and touching song. The excellently tuneful "Heart Of Gold" is an uptempo, country-tinged pop-rocker with jangly electric guitars and curiously affectionate lyrics which, as with "Come Dancing", seem to be written about one of Ray's sisters; it's marred a tad by Dave's somewhat sloppy vocal harmonizing on the choruses, but it's a minor gripe.
As usual with a Kinks album, there is some definite borrowing going on (whether or not Ray was conscious of it is another story). This applies especially to "Don't Forget To Dance"--it sounds extremely similar to the Kinks' own "Misfits", plus it borrows that 7 note piano/ vocal melody from the Rolling Stones' "She's A Rainbow" note-for-note. "Definite Maybe" seems to largely borrow its verse melody from the Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down". "David Watts" gets heavily referenced in "Young Conservatives", not just at the aforementioned 1:32, but even more so on the ending. I just can't help but point this stuff out.
Making the proceedings even more worthwhile are the bonus tracks. The "original extended edit" of "Don't Forget To Dance" has minor but interesting differences compared to the album version. "Once A Thief" is a snappy, bluesy rocker with an irresistibly catchy chorus. "Long Distance" (which originally appeared on the cassette version of the album, but not the vinyl) is a gorgeous, wistful ballad--it's an easy-rolling, masterfully-crafted mid-tempo story-song spiked with soaring cries of the title. The disc closes in fun fashion with "Noise"--sure the lyrics are pretty trivial, but the chorus is undeniably catchy, and there's also an Eastern-flavor that crops up which is intriguing and effective.
All in all, a superb disc from one of the most compulsively appealing (i.e. best) bands ever--this ranks as a must-have for any serious listener."
And when they said "Come dancing," my sister always did
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 07/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Kinks were already on a creative hot streak when "State Of Confusion" landed. "Give the People What They Want" had broken back on radio in a big way, and both "Low Budget" and "Misfits" had scored critically. The one place that the Arista Kinks hadn't yet Konqured was the fledgling world of music video.
"Come Dancing" obliterated that last hold-out. Both a clever video and an insanely catchy song, it shows Ray Davies' wit at its best. The follow-up single, the wistful "Don't Forget To Dance," was as romantic as "Come Dancing" was nostalgic. Those two songs were anomalies on a record that is pessimistic and unsettled on the majority of its songs.
Opening the album with a howl of pain or fear, "State Of Confusion" chronicles Ray's collapsing marriage. While cheeky, "Labour of Love" defines marriage as a "two-headed transplant" while mocking Jimi Hendrix' take on the Star Spangled Banner. "Property" dissects the mementos of a relationship with the withering couplet "we never needed them, but they've outlasted us."
Simple lifetime ennui also rears up allot. The title track rages against the everyday world of pressure, while "Definite Maybe" takes aim at petty bureaucracy. Even more viscous (and funny) is the "David Watts" inspired "Young Conservatives." The song also takes a dig at David Bowie to great effect. (Sadly, it also is dated now.) Davies' anger and frustration fuels the album, which sometimes makes the songs a bit off ("Heart Of Gold" and "Labour Of Love" seem to lack anything more than their disillusion as far as songs were concerned). As such, "State Of Confusion" is not quite as good as "Give The People What They Want," but it is superior to all the albums to follow -- and for that matter, "Sleepwalker" -- but be ready for a darker ride than the hits would lure you into expecting."