Give the People What They Want by The Kinks is one of my favorite albums. It was my first introduction to the band that would become one of my favorites. I started listening to the album heavily when I was experience some mental angst looking for sociopolitical view of life that was different from my young less polished views.
Give the People What They Want is a meditation on the breakdown of social life in first world countries that helped me put my own place in society into perspective. Around the Dial starts of the album with a plea for a DJ that didn't take shit from corporate music sponsors and played what he wanted. His audience loved him, but now he's gone. The upbeat song details the search him around the dial. At the time this album was made giant media companies were gobbling up independent stations and replacing DJs with hit playing robots (IE what we have now). The hit from the album Destroyer is a product of the paranoia of an individual who takes out a woman he thinks is actually a man. The woman in question is now back at his place. If listened to in conjunction with their hit Lola it tells a hilarious story. Deeper in the song there are themes of paranoid delusions that plague us all then attacks our social lives. This is a dark crippling paranoia of everything against our individual plans that turns us into self-conscience and disconnected individuals. Not only does Ray Davies look into the sickness of paranoia, but he also muses about what it is like to be a psychopath in Killer' Eyes. We are reminded that even a killer was a child with dreams and a future, but they throw it away at some point. This point is where a person adorns killer's eyes by losing all empathy and doesn't value human life anymore. Davies takes us from there into the dark world of domestic violence. A Little Bit of Abuse is a cry for abused woman to look past delusions of loving a man that hurts them. This is done in the sarcastic kitschy style The Kinks are known for, with lyrics like "Oh, so uncouth, excuse me is this your tooth?" Yo-Yo expresses the stresses work can put on a marriage, it expresses this beautifully when the wife exclaims "he's not the man who married me." This feeds into the sentiment of Predictable, which is a dirge about being stuck in the regular ruts that life throws out of you and eats passion away. The only escape from the monotony is day dreaming about faraway places. In a sense most of the 9-5 folks feel anxiety over this broken record that becomes our life. What is the repetition all for? Add It Up explains that it is all for cold hard cash. The song is a fatalistic musing over economic disparity. Designer brands are whispered throughout the songs which are equated to symbols on economic cruelty. The excesses don't stop there according the Kinks. In the title track Give the People What They Want our insatiable taste for sex and violence is tracked from the Roman Coliseum to the assassination of Kennedy. Now we vicariously feed our lesser selves cravings through media and the media companies are proud to be giving the people exactly what they want.
The oddest entry into the album is Art Lover, which is my favorite. The song comes off as disturbingly beautiful and tugs at very tender strings in my heart. If you listen closely, the song seems to be about a creep who is watching little girls in a park. It is quite awkward through most of the song. Then Ray Davies drops a heart sinking line: "she's just a substitute for what's been taken from me." Reality sets in and it is revealed this odd creeper is actually torn ex-father who lost his daughter somehow and can't get her back. The only way to fill that void in his heart is by watching girls play in a park. It is good to note that the albums isn't all about doom and gloom. Just like most of The Kinks albums there is a mature pessimism juxtaposed on the idea that the future can be improved. The closing track Better Things reminds us that, yes the world may suck, but there is always something better around the corner. The song is a toast to the down trodden optimist of the verge of pessimism.
Overall the album has stuck with me and evolved in my mind as I have grown and matured past my teenage self. I feel the album is a philosophical warning in my life not the fall into the traps of modern life and always look for better things in others. It is has always been a reminded to never live a day the same. Most importantly it is a good reminder to always give my loved ones laughter, wonder, and hope. I owe my love of this album to my dad. It was one of the moments when I felt like he knew exactly what I was going through in my life. The best way for him to give me guidance was to give me the album. He knew exactly what I needed. He was right. Everyone needs The Kinks at some point in their life.