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Music Review: The Kinks – Word of Mouth

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The career of The Kinks had reached the three decade mark when they returned with their Word Of Mouth album during November of 1984.

It was a solid, if not spectacular album of rock and roll. It seems as if Ray Davies was trying to create a commercially successful album by conforming to some of the musical trends of the era. He basically assembled an album of potential singles, none of which became hits. Still, a number of the songs were catchy, contained a little wit, and featured some fine guitar play.

It was a rare Kinks album where many of the highlights centered on brother Dave Davies rather than Ray. It seemed as if just about every Kinks album contained a hidden gem. In this case it was Dave’s “Living on a Thin Line,” which was a ballad of rare beauty. Even the lyrics of the poor and middle class being overwhelmed by the rich continues to resonate. His other composition, “Guilty,” contained one of the better lead vocals of his career. When you add in his riffing on the title track and the catchy guitar phrasing of “Do It Again,” you have an album that highlights many of the musical strong points of the often overlooked Davies brother.

The best of the Ray Davies concoctions was “Sold Me Out,” which would have fit in well with the punk movement. It was a song that just blasted out of the speakers. “Do It Again” should have been a hit single, as its catchy musical nature was perfect radio fare at the time and the tune remained in your mind for days. “Good Day” displayed the wit and sardonic nature of Ray, as the song was about anything but a good day. “Going Solo” was his philosophical musing about aging and empty nest syndrome. One could only wish for an update over a quarter of a century later.

On the other hand, “Missing Persons” struggled to be just an average song, and such tracks as “Too Hot,” “Summer’s Gone,” and “Massive Reductions” sort of disappear from memory after a couple of listens.

Word Of Mouth was one of those albums that probably deserved a little more respect than it has received. Given the brilliance of many albums in The Kinks catalog, Word Of Mouth has disappeared into the netherworld of their family of releases. Every once in a while, however, it deserves a listen especially for the Dave Davies contributions.

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About David Bowling

  • Dr. Syn

    Many of these songs were in Ray Davies’ film “Return to Waterloo,” which may explain some of the quality issues you describe.

    But “‘Summer’s Gone’ and ‘Massive Reductions’ sort of disappear from memory after a couple of listens”? Those are awesome tracks. Could any other songwriter write this?

    Now I’m standing in a doorway, thinking of Summers gone by.
    It ought to make me happy, but it just makes me want to cry.
    I was riding in the car with my mum and dad,
    He was drivin’ the car, the kids were drivin’ him mad.
    Dad looked at us, then he looked at his wife,
    He must have wondered where we all came from.
    And then mum said, “Dad, you know it won’t last for long,
    Before you know it, Summer’s gone.”

  • http://www.marktrafford.com mark trafford

    A great album,Do It aagain was single,as i worked in radio at the time and we played it.I have always felt that this album was ray’s breakup from Chrissy Hynde work..it starts off as someone trying to get up after being knocked down,then reflecting and finally coming to terms with it all.at least it was my go to album when in a breakup, and it was great therapy….lol.”Living on a thin line” is brilliant,Dave hit a homer..I just love the line in “going solo” where ray sings solo,so low.. so clever..the arista years are my favourite period for the kinks,revisit these albums,they are way better than some only 60’s fans may think.

    mark trafford

  • Martin Kalin

    This album is significant in that it represented the end of the Kinks’ arena band era. The Kinks played to half empty hockey stadiums in early 1985 to promote this album and, from then on, they were restricted to playing smaller music halls until 1996. The Kinks should have called it quits after this album as their output after 1984 was sparse and lacking in quality. This also represents the last album where Mick Avory contributed. Post Avory, the band seemed to have lost some of its magic. This album is often maligned, yet I think it is much better than Give The People and State of Confusion.

  • David P.

    Yes, an underrated album, and actually one of my favorites– DEFINITELY their best work of the 80s. What hurt the album’s sales was the inability of the group to tour when it first came out, and also the change in members– especially the loss of Mick Avory– confused fans. It also didn’t help that Ray was focusing alot of his attention on “Return to Waterloo.”