That the 61-year-old leader of the Kinks is only now releasing his first proper solo album, Other People’s Lives, must be some sort of cosmic clerical error. Just consider, momentarily, the far less talented bassists, drummers, and ex-New Kids on the Block-ers this means have beaten the man who wrote ”You Really Got Me ” and ”Lola” to the punch.
But hey, better late than never. Certainly, Other People’s Lives reveals that Ray Davies has lost little of his ability to marry great rock melodies to exquisitely offbeat lyrics (”Lola,” remember, is a stadium anthem about canoodling with a probable transvestite). The organ-led, gospel-choir-enhanced track ”Thanksgiving Day,” for example, sounds at first like a lush hymn to poultrydom’s least favorite 24 hours but is, in fact, a series of desolate vignettes that include the image of a lonely spinster praying for ”kisses all over her American face.” This well-honed bait-and-switch technique is also evident on the hook-heavy yet vein-burstingly splenetic ”Stand Up Comic” and ”Next Door Neighbour,” probably the loveliest song ever written about bankruptcy and mental collapse.
Moreover, the Brit’s once rather thin vocals seem to be getting richer with age, as demonstrated by his performance on the doom-laden ”After the Fall,” a track that seems to reflect on Davies’ 2004 shooting by a mugger in New Orleans but, eerily, predates that event. True, the loosely anonymous musical backing on, say, ”Run Away From Time” cries out for some berserk guitar chops from his brother, and fellow Kinks mainstay, Dave Davies. And no, there isn’t a song here that matches the very best of his ’60s output. But the fact that so many of the tracks are even in the same quality ballpark is saying a great deal.