Word of Mouth – drum machines and all – is an improvement over the putrid State of Confusion, but it’s pretty clear that Ray’s already-suspect creativity is sapped when the album’s single bites the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night,” morphs into a bad Pete Townshend impression, and then, inexplicably, rips off 1968 B-side “She’s Got Everything.” Maybe the whole thing’s a stroke of brilliance meant to illustrate the “nothing is ever really new” mopery of the lyrics. Or maybe Ray’s just out of new musical ideas. And given how little of his songwriting during this decade stands out as anything resembling MEMORABLE or EXCITING (or even WORTH OWNING), I’m putting my money on the latter being the case. Brother Dave’s not faring too well here either, with “Guilty” blaring forth as yet another boring, riff-by-numbers rocker – albeit with an OK chorus – that’s further sandbagged by Dave’s rotten vocals. Always strained and weak-sounding going back to the ’60s, his nasal yowlings are by this point brutal on the ears.
And just to kick the Kinks while they’re down, can anyone out there think of a band that had nearly as “impressive” a run of hideous album covers as these guys did from ’83 through ’88? I mean, good gravy… State of Confusion, Word of Mouth, Think Visual, and The Road are spectacularly ugly artifacts. Eyeball obscenities, all of ’em.