The rude shock of five bare, distorted guitar chords tears out of the speakers, and we’re back at the beginning. Dave Davies’s frustrated slashing of his Alpico amp with a razor blade in 1963, aged 16, is one of rock’s creation myths, and the resultant record, You Really Got Me, remains undiminished in its thrilling aggression.
I Will Be Me’s opening track, Little Green Amp, revisits the scene of that crime in the company of Pittsburgh punks Anti-Flag, in a song which bubbles over with anguished autobiography, as the singer declares: ‘I felt like… raising the dead.’ There have been Dave Davies albums since the massive stroke which felled him on June 30, 2004, including Fractured Mindz and Two Worlds with his son Russell. But I Will Be Me feels like the real comeback, recorded with guests ranging from Dead Meadow to the Jayhawks in studios across America.
June even saw a short US tour, after a decade when doctors’ advice left Dave effectively unable to work and impoverished, while brother Ray’s career soared. The unconventionally brilliant solos he conjured on The Kinks’ early singles stopped after the 60s. Though this is one of rock’s most innovative guitarists, don’t look for that from him here. Aged 67 and with copious hard living behind him before the stroke, the distinctive high London voice he’s always pushed to its limits also has a frail vulnerability now, straining and cracking.
The wildly disparate songs include an enigmatic country lament (Remember The Future), half-arsed filler (Erotic Neurotic) and extra-terrestrial ambient prog (Walker Through The Worlds), among rough edges which are what Ray’s albums miss, just as Ray’s polished craft would help here.
It’s a bumpy ride, but an honest and impassioned one. Just as Little Green Amp returns us to The Kinks’ atom-splitting origin, the closing Cote Du Rhone (I Will Be Me) recalls Dave’s first significant song, 1965’s I Am Free, in its demand for total liberty. It damns the rich who’ve wrecked the economy as Dave gets by on ‘supermarket beer’, and holds on to childhood dreams of a ‘better place’. The Kinks called it the Village Green.
As the album fades out, he’s defiantly scaling the high notes to keep crying ‘I am free!’ That’s what that dirty riff always meant to him, and it plays too, unstoppably, right to the end.