Ray Davies Other People's Lives

Umpteen years after Ray Davies’ last proper release, the deified songwriting legend and former Kinks front-man issues what is effectively his first-ever solo album of new material. The verdict? Davies has still got it, though not quite to the extent that he used to. Unlike many of his still-plugging-away-at-it contemporaries, Davies has never really issued a complete stinker (even the Kinks’ 1989 effort UK Jive has some redeeming moments). That record remains intact here as the artist again foregoes any trendy production nuances in favour of a polished yet straight-ahead and classic style. For the most part, Davies adheres to tradition when it comes to the arrangements of these 13 tracks, as well. If there’s one particular area of progression here it’s the disc’s lyrical content. Most tracks yield very carefully chosen, thoughtful and densely packed content, chock full of enough ideas to warrant an accompanying EP. And while the subject matter is updated here and there with modern references, some of Davies’ long held fixations remain evident, chief among them notions of social justice, media criticism and the differences and similarities between his British countrymen and Americans (presumably the titular "Other People”) and their respective cultures. There is no shortage of material here to ruminate on over the course of repeat listens. All told, Other People’s Lives demonstrates that Davies remains a much more relevant artist than his lengthy hiatus might have led fans to believe. And it’s refreshing to hear the guy who, years ago, was famously forced to edit out the lyric "Coca-Cola” use the f-word. (V2)