For those Like me who believe that the Kinks have been somewhat adrift in commercial commotion since their late-Seventies resurgence, State of Confusion, their twenty-eighth American album, is a strong reaffirmation of their best qualities. What makes cultists of Kinks fans is leader Ray Davies’ empathy for the lives real people lead, and his ability to convey that understanding in a voice that is wise and compassionate and in music that captures the subtlest flickers of emotions, as well as the boldest ones. State of Confusion scores high on all counts.
This is not a “happy” record, though there is humor in Davies’ Weltschmerz and in the springy vitality of the music. “State of Confusion” sets the tone, painting a scene of domestic disarray: “All the dirty dishes are still in the kitchen sink/The tumble dry is broken/Now the telly’s on the blink.” To top it off, the poor guy’s girlfriend moves out when the video machine goes on the fritz. From there, our hero moves out into the world and finds cause for disillusionment in one after another of its institutions. Like marriage, which makes a two-headed monster of man and wife in “Labour of Love.” Or the “Young Conservatives” sprouting up at the universities, whom Davies mocks for their self-centered careerist goals, throwing in a spray of “fa fa fa fa’s” at the end as a derisive reminder of the ambitious, by-the-rules schoolboy he lampooned fifteen years ago, by David Watts.