So tired of waiting? Maybe, but it’s a good kind of tired, and the wait was worth it. You have to add to the mix the gunshot wound and recuperation Ray Davies endured after tackling a purse snatcher who was absconding with his lady friend’s handbag. I wanna fly like Superman, indeed.
But Superman, or David Watts, Terry and Julie, Walter — do you remember Walter? — they’re all other people, and the leader of the legendary Kinks always has and still does continue the disclaimers that he is just a storyteller of tales that are not meant to be taken as autobiographical. He does allow, however, in this long-awaited full-form solo album of originals, Other People’s Lives — which includes accounts of a smarmy cad, big Australian barmaids, a woman who leaves a killer of a goodbye note, and hung-over self-deceivers — that some of the characters referred to, regardless of the title, are perhaps “parts of me.” Not that it helps much: “No one can penetrate me, they only see what’s in their own fancy,” he once sang.
Fine, we’ll have to suffice with the piercing psychological profiles and astute, satirical social commentaries, delivered here in varied styles from sinuous moodiness to chunky, punctuating shards of guitar-laden sonic give-and-take. That doesn’t mean, though, that a certain penchant for merging snippets and hints of older Davies’ songs with the newer ones in this punchy and often-enthralling release can‘t provide a little exercise in fun and futility that may or may not reveal the real Ray.
But the nostalgic re-visitations come only in moderation. “Next Door Neighbors” sees Davies, virtually telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty, fretting about the people on his street who could almost include the “Well-Respected Man” and the “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” fallen on hard times. And the “Lola"-like guitar riff in “Is There Life After Breakfast?” a song evocative of the countrified and boozy “Muswell Hillbillies” (1971), is a reminder of how, in concerts during the era of 1981’s Give The People What They Want (a title and tack I took to be can't-beat-'em tongue-in-cheek, given past commercial frustrations) the Kinks would tease the audience with false-start “Lola” intros, effectively not giving them what they want quite yet.