State Of Confusion
Velvel Records, 1983
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/14/2000
The Kinks had a long run in rock music with plenty of ups and downs. They were one of the original British Invasion bands to reap the benefits of the Beatles' skyrocket to fame. Like the Rolling Stones and the Who, they had a rawer sound than the Beatles, as proof by their early hits like "You Really Got Me." However, it was after their initial success that we heard what made the Kinks distinctive: Ray Davies' unique brand of satire in songs like "Well Respected Man" and "Lola."
Their seventies output was very ambitious with rock operas and concept albums, but like many ambitious works, they did not sell well. RCA Records eventually dropped them and Arista Records picked them up on the condition that they come out with straight rock records. These albums expressed Davies' cynicism in tighter, more rock-oriented form and their sales improved.
Their most successful album from the Arista era is 1983's State Of Confusion, thanks to the surprise hits of the playfully nostalgic "Come Dancing" and the winsome ballad "Don't Forget To Dance." This year, Velvel Records re-released remastered versions of this and other Kinks CDs with bonus tracks.
But be careful: State Of Confusion may have those light-hearted singles, but most of the album is that of angry hard rock, very typical of the Kinks' Arista period. The only other song that has the same feel as the singles is "Heart Of Gold," a tribute to former girlfriend Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. In a nice touch, the song sounds very much like the Pretenders big hit at the time, "Back On The Chain Gang."
However the meat of this CD is found in songs like the title tune, a blistering rocker about alienation that is a powerful and very perceptive song to start out this collection. The next song, "Definite Maybe" also rocks but is a more amusing satire on bureaucracy, proof that Davies has not totally lost his sense of humor.
Davies also takes a couple of swipes at marriage. "Labour Of Love" starts off with a sizzling guitar rendition of "The Wedding March" in a parody of Jimi Hendrix's cover of "The Star Spangled Banner" and is relentless in portraying a married couple from hell. "Property" looks at divorce and the tug of war waged by couples for the best monetary settlement.
Believe it or not, these are relatively light tunes in both sound and subject matter compared to the last two from the original album configuration. "Cliches Of The World (B Movie)" is a song about the utter worthlessness of life. Whereas the song "State Of Confusion" made some valid points, this one is way too overwrought. "Bernadette," a fast rocker by brother Dave Davies about a golddigger, is very sneering and ended the album on a very sour note.
However, the bonus tracks lighten the tone a bit. The extended edit of "Don't Forget To Dance" is unnecessary, but "Once A Thief" is a gem. It sounds like The Rolling Stones covering a Motown tune. "Long Distance" is a sweet if overlong countryish ballad, and "Noise" is a throwaway hard rocker. I do not understand why "Once A Thief" was left off the original album.
State Of Confusion is a welcome addition for anyone who enjoys the Kinks music of that period. There are a core of very good songs and a few that misfire making it a good but not great CD. However, I wouldhesitate to recommend this CD to people who are thinking of buying it for "Come Dancing" or "Don't Forget To Dance" because these two songs sound like they belong on an entirely different CD. Better wait for a best-of collection from this period.