UK Jive (The Kinks) – Album Review

“UK Jive” Was A Major Commercial Failure When It Was Released In 1989.

“UK Jive” Was A Major Commercial Failure When It Was Released In 1989.

An ignominious flop, “UK Jive” (1989) was the penultimate album The Kinks were to issue. It suffers from the problem that also bogged down The Who’s “It’s Hard” and several other ‘80s albums, namely just too much social observation in lieu of real melodies.

The biggest offenders are arguably “Entertainment”, a quasi-punk song that lacks all articulation and “War Is Over”, one meditation on war too many (and one lacking the brave wit of “Arthur” at that). The title track is also routinely derided, owing to its abusive ‘50s mannerisms (reminiscent of acts like Sha Na Na) and the sampling of the Who’s “My Generation” during the fade.

The rest of the album, now, is not really that unapproachable. “Aggravation” is heavy metal that works (unlike most of the cuts on “Phobia”, the final studio album by the band), as does the emotion-high “How Do I Get Close”. Granted, Dave’s riffing on that one is a bit predictable, but the song has a nice vocal arrangement and a great flow on the whole.

And “What Are We Doing” is a minor gem, if only because the melody somehow sounds so fresh. Maybe it is the punctual horns that keep things going, maybe it is the original rhymes Ray employs. The fact is the song just works, and it is one of the cuts that will drive you back to the disc.

I must admit I am not that thrilled by “Loony Balloon”, a shuffly number about the doomed fate of the planet. Maybe the problem is its actual duration – it is almost as long as “Aggravation”, but whereas the album opener intelligently combined many different sections (a la “Another Brick In The Wall), “Loony Balloon” is virtually five minutes of the same. And the first minute alone is not that engaging, the harsh truth be said.

I am, however, very keen on “Now And Then”. I think it is the one piece of effective observation yielded by “UK Jive”. The lyrics are not that much better than the ones offered on the songs that don’t cut it, but the stripped beginning which eventually gives way to a full flourish makes it stick clearer (and truer) in your mind. And the sardonic “Down All The Days” (a poke at the upcoming elections) is also a nice distraction. Continue reading

Psychoderelict (Pete Townshend) – Album Review

One Of The Two Covers Of "Psychoderelict" (1993)

One Of The Two Covers Of "Psychoderelict" (1993)

Pete Townshend’s relationship with the music industry was always defined by a sort of unresolved tension. His one dream project (Lifehouse) clearly spelt that he wanted something from music and from listeners that was not to be. And that tension began pouring into songs by the point “The Who By Numbers” was issued. The jabs were to become full body blows in solo songs like “Jools & Jim”. And the final solo album that he was to release examined the way artists were at the mercy of unscrupulous managers and press agents as thoroughly as only a lifelong insider could.

Named “Psychoderelict”, the disc came out in 1993 and many experts touted it as one of the comebacks of the decade. But it was to perform ingloriously in the charts, and if we leave aside the “Lifehouse Chronicles” boxed set and some compilations (including a “Best Of” package and another title in the “Scoop” series), Pete was to issue no more original material ever again.

Psychoderelict was a conceptual work that took the shape of a CD drama. The story revolved around a ‘60s s musician named Ray High who ended up cocooning himself as the years went by, much to the chagrin of his ruthless manager Rastus Knight. He was desperate to spur Ray into action, and a music journalist named Ruth Streeting devised a way to revive Ray’s career. This involved the creation of a sex scandal that effectively put the name of Ray in everybody’s lips again.

The CD is made up of songs interspersed with dialogue, and the story is completely understandable (and even funny). Ray High (whose name was a direct homage to Ray Davies and Nick Lowe) is entirely convincing as he rallies against the industry and the press, but the true stars are Ruth and Rastus. They are truly two villains you will love to hate. They are hardnosed and truly mercenary. They are also entirely tangible, and the words they speak to each other must have been spoken a billion times over the fates of artists everywhere. At around the time the disc was issued, Pete told Keith Moon’s biographer Tony Fletcher that the music industry “feeds on the corpses of artists”. By that yardstick, Ruth and Rastus come across as the most accomplished undertakers you are liable to ever come across. Continue reading