“In A Moment” / Ray Davies
I keep forgetting that Ray Davies’ new album, Workingman’s Café, is coming out in the States next week – I pre-ordered mine so long ago (plus I already have the UK version, which was released last November, and the 10-track freebie from the Sunday Times—but I had to have it all; after all, this is RAY).
Ray Davies performed this new track from WMC last night at the Tibet House Benefit, which unfortunately I did not attend (anybody who saw me there must have been hallucinating). It’s a natural choice for Ray to have done last night, not only because he wrote it in New York, but also because it doesn’t sound like an old reworked Kinks song--this is the new solo Ray, and I love it. I love the loose-limbed rhythm of this song, Ray’s breathy vocals, the almost reggae-like way he accents odd syllables. It’s really a mood piece, not a story—coming from one of the world’s great storytellers, that’s surprising--but that just proves Ray’s willingness to grow as an artist.
A single harsh guitar strum wakes us up, then Ray begins, in a husky earnestness: “Sunlight, and the city / is barely awake.” I love that time of day, too; I’m captivated at once. As he says at the end of the verse, “Still I love the dusk, the dawn / Between times / They are mine.” He tries to pin it down in the bridge, saying, “Everything around is so transitional / Momentary lapse of rational.” Those abstracts seem out of place in a rock song, I’ll admit; they grated on my ear at first. (Plus “rational” doesn’t seem right – shouldn’t it be “rationality”?). But as the song goes on, I realize that the struggle to put things into words is a big part of what’s going on.
After all, being only human—and Ray’s a great chronicler of human failings—we often overreact, or read a situation wrong, or just plain have lousy timing, don’t we? And often it's those things that kill a relationship, not the grand romantic twists of fate. With tantalizingly vague descriptions, Ray depicts those knife-edge moments when love turns to hate, or joy to pain; when you change your point of view, or just look away, and suddenly the whole affair goes sour. “In a second you can look away / Turn around to find it’s all changed.”
That tripping syncopation and staggered syntax are perfect for a song about relationships going out of kilter. Even though he tries to end on a positive note – “But in a moment / Hope will find a way” – it’s not very convincing. If anything, this song is kin to a couple of sleeper Kinks gems I’ve always loved, “Stormy Sky” and “Lost and Found” – it’s got the same floating-above-it-all quality, a philosophical detachment that I find oddly comforting. Sure, things are crap, but we can rise above it, can't we?
I suspect this won’t go down in the pantheon of great love songs – but then the Kinks were never big on simple love songs. (Tortured love songs, that’s another matter.) But the restless dreaminess of this song is totally seductive. It’s a watercolor, not a big broad canvas, but drawn with all the delicacy and feeling of a master.
In A Moment sample