Our Country: Americana Act II
From the Kinks to his latest country-borne writing, Ray Davies is ambitious and relentless as a songwriter. However, this second part to his Americana series shows that he doesn’t always edit himself down. Though it brings plenty of interesting stories and great musical moments, at 19 songs the album is a little too bloated for what Davies offers on a song-to-song basis.
Though it takes its time to grab listeners, “Our Country” tells the story of America’s beginnings in an interesting but perhaps a little bit cheesy way. However this starts view becomes more pointed on “The Invaders” where a military beat sets the backbone of a commentary on how imaginary the freedom of the West is and what it was like being part of the British Invasion. This sense of imagination doesn’t really come through on “Back In The Day” however, as Davies seems to settle into a throwback rock aesthetic that predates the Kinks themselves.
“Oklahoma USA” takes a much more smoky approach to Davies’ country mystique as he bring a romanticized vision of the American countryside to life. Davies’ own quirky writing makes the country beat of something like “Bringing Up Baby” feel more like a Fleetwood Mac song at times, while not totally escaping the bland feel the genre has dug itself into lately. Davies steps even further away from typical country on “The Getaway” where his dark story and a notably dense production keep the song as lively as its fast outro.
Things really get interesting however on “The Take” where Davies gets more punk than he usually offers, while bringing his newfound spoken-word mystique to the sound. The sonic diversity continues on the shimmering guitars and heavenly harmonies of “We Will Get There” where Davies recounts his life while bringing a sense of wonder to it. This shifts into even more unusual writing on “The Real World” which despite its clichés becomes one of the most powerful tracks on the album thanks to a healthy handful of stirring musical moments.
There’s something endless charming to songs like “A Street Called Hope” which remind you just how sharp Davies writing can be at its core. This is what makes other tracks like “The Empty Room” and “Calling Home” just feel less magical in the scheme of things, because even with their strong lyrics and moments, they lack the standout feelings of Davies other writing. “Louisiana Sky” focuses back on the writing, but given the album’s immense length it too feels a little overtly long given how genre-focused its backing is.
With this in mind, the imagery and unusual genre conventions that Davies twists on something like “March Of The Zombies” makes for a sharp take on blues, with roaring choruses. Though he subverts others’ impressions of his music on “The Big Weird” the track overall just doesn’t ever stick the landing.
“Tony And Bob” really only works as an intro to “The Big Guy” as its story continues to a journey to Heaven and the harsh realities you can face there. In his final story moment, “Epilogue” tells the darkest story of the whole record, as Davies discusses the anger he still fosters inside and the horrors he saw in New Orleans. Rounding out his self-aware writing, Davies closes in a fiery country flame on “Muswell Kills” and plays on his own past writing hilariously.
Words by Owen Maxwell