Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stuff I'm listening to lately, Pt 1

Here's a random spattering of stuff I'm listening to right now. I have an emusic subscription, which is great for trying new stuff that you wouldn't just go out and buy, especially smaller bands that you might not hear about otherwise.

That said, my first selection is from the well-known but often underrated Kinks. Released in 1971, Muswell Hillbillies is the Kinks' foray into the world of alt-country; in fact, it's apparently credited as being an early example of that style of music. It's definitely a country-themed album, with lots of acoustic-based rockers. Ray Davies distinct brand of catchy songwriting is something I've admired since I was a kid and there's some really fun songs on this album.

However, there are a number of tracks that are really annoying (ones where Ray adopts a "character voice" or that feature a New Orleans Jazz-style backing ensemble grate the most). I think that's probably what's kept this album from become the well-known classic it could have been, with a little editing. "20th Century Man", "Holloway Jail", "Mountain Woman", "Muswell Hillbilly" and "Complicated Life" make a nice little EP, though, if you take them out and put them on a separate playlist, which I've done. Like on The Village Green Preservation Society (a great album, considered by some to be the Kinks' Pet Sounds), the songs are mostly about how lame modern life is compared to the glorified old days. I can sympathize. Check out some selected lines from 20th Century Man:

"This is the twentieth century/too much aggravation/it's the age of insanity/What has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem"


"You keep all your smart modern writers/Give me William Shakespeare/You keep all your smart modern painters/I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough"

one more:

"We gotta get out of here/we gotta find a solution/I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want to die here"

I like when he says in that last line that he doesn't want to die in the 20th Century. But he's clearly not talking about living until the 21st Century because he's fondly remembering the past the entire song. So, I can only assume he wants to build a time machine of some sort, which, of course, is awesome.

Anyway, if you like the Kinks, subtext about time travel, and a little bit of twang check out Muswell Hillbillies.

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