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To avoid falling into this trap himself, Davies is spending a lot of time finding the right balance for his forthcoming album. Its theme is likely to be "transience," he says. "That's the only word to describe it, because it's a transitional thing. But I want it to be very simple and not what people expect. When most people do their first solo projects, the recordings tend to get overblown, and I don't want that. To me, cutting and editing is crucial, because that's how you get to the essence of what you're trying to write about. I think back to those early songs I wrote -- how simple they were, and how easy to write. Most of them didn't have smart rhymes, and the structure...I'm not really fond of the structure of 'Waterloo Sunset,' but when you put it together, it works. And that's what's important."
To date, Davies hasn't settled on precisely who will be helping him play his latest numbers. This past summer, he starred in a couple of showcases backed by Yo La Tengo, a brainy group that's also taking part in This Is Where I Belong, and recorded a handful of tunes with the outfit as well. The combination has caused excitement and anticipation among rock's cognoscenti, but Davies isn't ready to promise that the band's music will form the backbone of his project.
"I found them to be very nice people," he says. "They're very collaborative, very much like a unit, and they brought a lot of new stuff to the songs. But at the end of it, I'm making a record about me, and I've got to make judgments about the things I think are appropriate to my music. I've got about three or four rhythm sections I've been working with, including Yo La Tengo, and I don't know yet if the record will be made with a combination of these people or how it's going to integrate. I just want it to sound like a group. I hope it'll sound like a good group."
On the surface, one band fitting this description -- the Kinks -- is available; no one has formally declared it dead. But Davies isn't pining away for that sort of comeback. "I speak to the others occasionally, and the way we've left it is, once I get my solo record out of the way, maybe we can sit down, listen to the songs, and if we feel there's any reason to go forward, we will. But not to make a nostalgia record. I'm not interested in that."
Ray Davies not interested in nostalgia? This proclamation sounds strange coming from a man whose work frequently looks back, in either delight or irony-softened anger. But right now, he's focused on the here and now, even if the present day is more than a little frightening.
"On the surface, there won't be anything on my record about the World Trade Center," he says. "But things like that change creative people. I don't know how it will change me or any of us. But we will be changed."
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