Slandered by critics, dismissed as clangorous hard rock by others, this album actually finds the Kinks, 30 years into their career, at the top of their lyrical and musical craft. It's alternately haunting, angry and sad throughout, with tight playing and beautiful harmonies weaving it all together.
On "Phobia", Ray Davies' frail voice cries out like a beacon of humanity in a dark, pre-apocalyptic landscape. The weakest track is the first song proper, "Wall of Fire", but after that, it's pretty much one triumph after another. Highlights include "Still Searching", "Only a Dream" "Phobia" and, probably the BEST track here,(the last track on the CD)"Scattered".
If you're a fan of the "whimsical" or "quaint" Kinks, you may want to look elsewhere because this is a VERY dark album. I love the "whimsical" Kinks as well, but I always sensed the demons that lurked underneath the surface of Ray Davies' "misty waters", and so this album was not a total shock to me. However, the casual listener should be warned, on "Phobia", Ray's demons are let loose here and the result is a paranoid, almost claustrophobic CD.
This is an album of desperation... as the new century approached, Ray Davies sensed that idyllic parables could not fully express the spiritual/moral/mental crisis facing us as a species. So, he cranks up the amps on tracks like "Drift Away" and "Phobia" to make sure his message is heard. That is not to say that the CD is unmelodic... some of the Kinks'most attractive melodies to date can be found here.
I strongly suspect that the people who have panned this album either have not fully listened to it, (they heard one track not to their liking and cast it aside)or they are so set in what they think the Kinks should be, that they cannot handle anything different. (they want an album filled with 16 "waterloo sunset" re-writes) I believe that anyone who truly sits down and absorbs all 79 minutes of this album will be richly rewarded with a batch of evocative and powerful songs which only sound more powerful with each passing day.