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Music Review: The Kinks – Give The People What They Want

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I have always been amused by the title of The Kinks album, Give The People What They Want. Ray Davies and The Kinks did just the opposite for close to a decade with a series of concept albums. Even when they returned to a straight rock format and commercial success, Davies still traveled his own musical journey rather than pandering to the whims of music buying public.

Give The People What They Want was released in the U.S. during August of 1981 (January, 1982 in the U.K.). At the time, The Kinks were comprised of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ray Davies, lead guitarist Dave Davies, drummer Mick Avory, bassist Jim Rodford, and keyboardist Ian Gibbons.

The album was weaker than most of their recent rock albums. The music was catchy and in places was some of the hardest rock The Kinks would produce. The lyrics were some of the darkest of Ray Davies career. Death, killing, and abuse did not make for a pleasurable listen. Also missing were doses of Ray Davies wit and satire, which had saved similar material in the past. It all added up to a half-good album that ranks somewhere in the middle of their catalogue of music.

The album had a promising beginning. “Around The Dial” contained scathing commentary about how corporations controlled the programming of radio stations.

There were two superior tracks that found the band on solid ground. “Predictable” was about the bliss of monotony. Davies always had the capacity for creating songs about ordinary things. “Better Things” closed the album on a high note and was very different from what had preceded it. It was a catchy and charming ballad and a rare upbeat concoction by Davies.

Songs such as “Destroyer” and “Back To Front” may not have contained memorable lyrics but they found The Kinks exploring the outer edge of hard rock. On the other hand, tracks such as the chilling “Killer’s Eyes,” “A Little Bit Of Abuse,” “Yo-Yo,” and even the title track found the band exploring the dark side of life.

Give The People What They Want presented The Kinks moving into the 1980s with a much harder sound. If you can shut out the lyrics to some of the tracks, the album becomes a lot more palatable but it ultimately remains an album for Kinks fans who want it all.

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About David Bowling

  • Cam

    I was 9 years old at my first concert that my parents took me to. which happens to be the kinks” give the people what they want ” tour at festival hall Brisbane Australia. i remember clearly the smell of hooch and the hard sounds as i bought and listened to the album on cassette over and round for years. so i know it well and your description is perfect. from my mind as a child and not knowing what the lyrics meant. now 40 years old.
    ps Dave davies stood on my fingers that day. but i was sitting on the stage watching them. he gave me a handful of guitar picks and said sorry in the middle of a solo. still have the picks in a photo album.:)

  • I always attached a touch of tongue-in-cheek cynicism to Ray Davies’ songwriting after the Kinks released Sleepwalker (the first Arista album, after a series of lower-selling RCA concept albums). It was understandable to give commercial vent to their new status as bestselling arena-rockers, so it really was in essence a matter of “giving the people what they want.”

    I agree with you about “Better Things” – that’s a gem of a song.

  • Wow, i am totally the opposite, one of my fav albums, the humour can be dark but funny and touching at the same time. The title track satirizes our modern world like a looking glass. I actually played around the dail as my last song when i left a radio gig to move up… lol. Art lover is a standout, initially looking like a pervert but upon listening its about a dad who lost rights… the album stands up well and i would give it an excellent.