Certain Songs #877: The Kinks – “Killing Time”

Album: Think Visual
Year: 1986

Think Visual was the first Kinks album in nearly a decade to show up with no fanfare. With only the Davies brothers left from the original quartet — Mick Avory left after Word of Mouth — they’d transformed into a legacy act.

While it took two decades for that to happen, it was still a fate that The Who had avoided by breaking up (remember, it was 1986) and The Rolling Stones had avoided by sheer force of will, though Dirty Work was slagged pretty hard (and somewhat unfairly), so it was really for the die-hards. I kinda doubt that Think Visual was anybody’s first Kinks album.

And given that the autumn of 1986 was a pretty major transitory period for me, I bought it because it was the Kinks, but it didn’t get nearly a much of an airing as The Smiths and R.E.M. and Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock records that were dominating the hearts and minds of my peers at the time.

And so, it while was cool that Think Visual had a pretty, reggae-ish song called “The Video Shop,” because, hey, I worked at a video shop, and Ray was at least paying some attention to the 1980s, the only song that really jumped out at me was “Killing Time.”

Lyrically, “Killing Time” was a juxtaposition of “life is so long and boring” with “life is too short:” maybe not the most original of themes, but also right in Ray Davies’ wheelhouse, so why should he stop now with the complaining about things that were out of his control?

Is that all life’s meant to be?
Commercials full of luxuries
A man has one, a cat has nine
And in between it’s killing time
(Killing time)

(No word on how many lives the Phenomenal Cat had, but I’m sure it was more than nine.)

And what really mattered was the also-in-his-wheelhouse of crunchy (albeit buried) guitar chords that supported yet another gorgeous melody. When the rest of the band echoed “killing tiiiiiimmme” over and over again while Dave’s guitars shimmied and shone all around, it may not have risen to the level of previous greatness, but it had a simple majesty all its own.

“Killing Time” is the last of the Kinks songs I’m writing about (though for awhile I was going to do Loony Balloon from 1989’s U.K. Jive until I realized that I only liked it relatively as opposed to absolutely, and maybe it was time to let The Kinks go, finally.

Which, honestly, I’ll probably never do, at least in terms of the joy their music has always given me.

“Killing Time”

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