Everyone knows The Kinks, and if you don’t you really shouldn’t call yourself a music fan. ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ is though perhaps the real forgotten British classic. Harking back to their days as kids in the Muswell Hill suberb of London, the brothers Davies took the British preservation framework of previous albums and wrapped it in influences including American Blues. The result is a harder, punchier album which serves Ray Davies’ lyrical musings better than a scone and a cup of tea (one sugar for reference please).
Kicking off with the amazing ’20th Century Man’ which 40+ years on still feels as culturally relevant as ever, we then have ‘Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues’ which if not careful could fall fowl of today’s PC brigade but gets away with it via the Kinks trademark salvo of wit and classic songwriting method.
‘Alcohol’ is perhaps one of the most noteworthy tracks, a lost Kinks Klassic, in fact you almost hear the influence for Carl Barat’s debut album within the delivery of the vocals and that’s without even mentioning the obvious debt that a certain Damon Albarn owes to this album. ‘Here Come The People In Grey’ shows that even after the likes of ‘You Really Got Me’ Dave Davies was a master of getting the right guitar sound, that paired with a punchier bass as the band moved away from poor 60’s production methods makes for a killer album track.
‘Have A Cuppa Tea’ is perhaps the nearest to the dancehall stylings that Ray Davies was always a sucker for, while a good song, it’s simplicity in subject matter will probably lead to you skipping the track on repeated listens of the album.
‘Oklahoma USA’ is, as the title suggests, the most American friendly track. A gorgeously constructed ballad that shows that Ray didn’t always have to sing in full on Cockney to get a reaction.
On the bonus disc we have the real gem. ‘Lavender Lane’ is the hit single that never was, leading me to sigh upon repeated listens as to how the track has never seen official release up to this point. A classic Davies storyteller tune about a town being knocked down might not seem like much to worry about but the delivery and the refrain help make this song a legitimate counterpart to ‘Waterloo Sunset’.
Also on the bonus disc is the interesting selection of live tracks from the era that show how the Kinks had finally found their happy medium between the commercial American sound and their British preservation instinct. This album then isn’t just a reissue but a welcome nudge towards a forgotten sector of the Kink’s rich musical catalogue!