Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Art Lover, By The Kinks

I thought I’d take a page out of Holly’s book and talk briefly about one song by the Kinks that I firmly believe is one of the most underrated in their large and varied catalog. Holly does this kind of micro-analysis much better than I could ever hope, but what the hell. It's a song worth touting, no matter how sloppy the writing!
Art Lover, released on 1981’s Give The People What They Want album, is the great lost Kinks song. First, the lyrics:

“Sunday afternoon there’s something special
Its just like another world.
Jogging in the park is my excuse
To look at all the little girls.

I’m not a flasher in a rain coat,
I’m not a dirty old man,
I’m not gonna snatch you from your mother,
I’m an art lover.
Come to daddy,
Ah, come to daddy,
Come to daddy.

Pretty little legs, I want to draw them,
Like a degas ballerina.
Pure white skin, like porcelain,
She’s a work of art and I should know
I’m an art lover.
Come to daddy,
And I'll give you some spangles.

Little girl don’t notice me
Watching as she innocently plays.
She cant see me staring at her
Because I’m always wearing shades.
She feeds the ducks, looks at the flowers.
I follow her around for hours and hours.
Id take her home, but that could never be,
She’s just a substitute
For what’s been taken from me.
Ah, come to daddy, come on.

Sunday afternoon cant last forever,
Wish I could take you home.
So, come on, give us a smile
Before you vanish out of view.
I’ve learned to appreciate you
The way art lovers do,
And I only want to look at you.”

Is it simply about an English pedophile, or is it about someone who’s child has been removed from his life by a bitter ex, or is it a bit of both? Not sure, but whatever it’s about Ray Davies makes you feel sorry for the guy and a little sick to your stomach at the same time. The guys a master.
It’s impossible to listen to the song and not visualize it. Musically it’s a mid-tempo number, and a little waltz-y, and it suit’s the mood of the piece perfectly. The song strolls along keeping time perfectly with the “art lover” as he walks and stalks the “little girls in the park”.
It’s a bit of a throw back too, in a good way, to Ray’s character sketches of the past and a welcome return to form. It sits near the end of the album and doesn’t really reflect the overall harder rock tone of Give The People What They Want. Along with the other real standouts on the album (the optimistic "Better Things", the fun piss-take of "Destroyer") it is what saves this album from being simply mediocre.

1 comment:

Holly A Hughes said...

Ummm, one of the most underrated gems in Ray's oeuvre. It's the pedophile creepiness that really makes it work, I think -- that wistfully lilting melody and Ray's mincing, fey delivery. Is it about an estranged dad who's going batty or about a "flasher in a raincoat" who doesn't realize how sick he is? It's BOTH AT ONCE! -- they somehow meld and merge in this song. Brilliant.

Ray can work that angle between depravity and innocence better than anybody alive -- better than anybody since Henry James. The man's such an effing genius!