When the Kinks released ‘State of Confusion’ in 1983, they were still a viable force on the popular music scene. Much like the Who and the Rolling Stones, these guys were always able to rely on the fact that they were considered one of the legendary figures in the development of rock music. This would give them an inherent advantage as far as remaining relevant on the charts was concerned, and you’ve got to hand it to them, they don’t seem to have ever taken this fact for granted. They’ve always dedicated themselves to creating a full-length project as opposed to copping out for the quick radio singles.
This record opens with the title track and from the very beginning, it becomes clear that the Kinks are very aware of the state of things around them. The title of this record suggests an uneasy context. The band does a good job of keeping things pretty even on this record in terms of mood; there’s a solid mix of serious songs tossed in with some of the band’s more traditionally humorous, cheeky vibe. It’s this impeccable balance that has long made them one of the most concrete of all rock bands. They also proved that they knew how to transition to what an ’80s audience was looking for, as presented in songs like “Come Dancing” and “Don’t Forget to Dance”. While these are both fine tracks and are definitely the tracks that are most remembered from the record, the absolute strongest piece of this record is to be found in the track “Young Conservatives”, which laments the sad reality of what, in many ways, can simply be described as the death of youth culture; the kind of culture that always brought in the kids and the young adults, the spirit of rock n’ roll and rebellion (something my fellow millennials have no foundation in), which makes this socially astute track even more timely today than when this record was released. The most striking thing about this record’s best material, though, is the fact that this band has lost none of its trademark charm over the years. Does anybody not like the Kinks?
Overall, this is a pretty damn good record. It’s definitely not the best record the band had ever released, but you’ve got to give them credit for putting in a full effort to making this a complete record and not just coming off as a band resting on its legacy to make a quick buck. The Brothers Davies proved that they still had a lot of fire left in their bellies on this record and they also proved that their souls are eternally youthful; this was a band two decades into their career by the time of this record’s release and they sound just as vibrant and scrappy as they did on their earliest, classic material. A zest for life hardly matched by anyone else is what allows these two brothers to remain such a vital force of rock n’ roll long after the conventions of popular music say they should be. When you’re having this much fun making records and possess as irresistible of a charm as these guys do, who cares what the conventions of popular music have to say? There’s always something to be said for the Kinks’ aura, even when they don’t completely hit one out of the park.