Friday, October 2, 2009

Kinks - Apeman

(Pye, 1970)

If it’s praise for “Apeman” that you seek, seek elsewhere, PAL, because I don’t have many kind things to say about a single that takes Ray Davies’ dead-horse themes of dislocation and escape and forces them into a cloying, dunderheaded novelty entirely lacking in wit. Sure, I can appreciate new-guy John Gosling, who continues to make his presence felt with a pronounced piano/keys oom-pah that adds extra weight to the music, but, as on “Lola,” what’s up with Ray’s “in-character” vocals? That weak, tip-toe style of enunciating that he employs is EXTREMELY irritating, not to mention mildly racist during his terrible “reggae-man” spoken bit. Lousy lyrics (“I’m an apeman, I’m an ape-apeman, oh I’m an apeman / I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voodoo man / Oh I’m an apeman”) compound the problem, making “Apeman” a record that hardly ranks among the finer moments from ol’ Ray, a guy who likes to fancy himself the thinking-fellow’s pop star. Pfft. Clunker though it is, feel free to flip the thing over and enjoy “Rats,” a typically serviceable Dave Davies rawker. While the Kinks aren’t quite capable of running with the Heavy crowd of the early ’70s, this one makes a noble, noisy go of it and actually ain’t half bad. We’ll never see eye to eye on the whole alien-visitation thing, but I think we can at least agree that you did a swell job here, Dave! Common ground, my friend.


Donald Brown said...

Jeeze, lighten up. This song is fun! Listen to how Ray sings "coconut tree," and if you can't laugh at "I'm think I'm so educated and I'm so civilized, 'cos I'm a strict vegetarian," well then, maybe you ain't eyeballing those borough brats with sufficient ape man scorn. And as mindless sing-alongs go (try it on a roadtrip with kids) "i'm an ape man, I'm an ape-ape-man" can be energizing. It's also funny thinking of Ray, who was man-handled by a cross-dresser in "Lola," suddenly declaring his Tarzan / Jane ethic.

A friend's dad insisted it said "keeps fucking up my eyes" and wouldn't let him play the song.

Paul Gowler said...
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Paul Gowler said...

The song is fun? It's highly racist! There is a strong suggestion that the Occident is more civilized than Africa, and yes I understand that the lyrics are not flattering about civilization the point still stands. The lyrics are grounded in a rhetoric and ideology that is offensive to people of colour and was used to justify the oppression and enslavement of their ancestors. It was a different time and I think it's often unfair to judge purely by today's standards but I don't think the song should be celebrated. Same with Dreadlock Holiday by 10cc. And the video to that! I mean, it could have been made by the Thatcher government as a campaign video.

Anonymous said...

Paul - in today's context, very questionable on the race relations front I agree. But what many commenters seem to fail to take into account is which part of the past a song was written / recorded / released in, and this example seems no different. In 1970, no-one would have shouted "racist!" for the lyrics put together in this tune by Ray Davies. So, if this is a racist song, what is "Barbados" by Typically Tropical? It really is all about time context, and less about right-on modern correctness. And, as mentioned, it's just a fun fun record, a throwaway of its time, and I personally will continue to enjoy it, as I did in 1970/71.