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Dave Davies’ Bug : Record Store Day First Time Vinyl Reviewed

Mark Smotroff’s gets happy surprise on RSD…

Y’know kids… sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask….

Some time in the last two years in a social media thread that involved Dave Davies, co-founder of The Kinks (one of my all time favorite bands), it felt appropriate for me to ask if his fabulous solo album called Bug (from 2002) might get a first time vinyl release in the near future.  I’m not 100-percent sure if I was actually interacting with Dave himself but whomever was managing that Twitter feed kindly responded but didn’t get my hopes up. 

That didn’t bother me. 

I felt good knowing that at minimum, one of the powers that be in Mr. Davies’ corner of all things Kinks heard my request and — putting on my fanboy hat — maybe (just maybe) it might be acknowledged as a good idea.

Fast forward to the recent Record Store Day 2021 #2 event and one of the happiest of surprises for me was discovering that indeed Dave Davies’ Bug was finally being issued on vinyl! I hadn’t heard before getting in line at Amoeba and somehow had missed it on the RSD preview lists. Go figure. A happy surprise!

Bug was more or less overlooked when it came out but to my ear it is musically Davies’ strongest solo album, with many tunes that could very easily fit on a new Kinks album.  The album is notable not only for including his son Russell but also the great Kristian Hoffman (The Mumps, Rufus Wainwright band, etc.) on keyboards and backing vocals. 

Yet, the sounds here are not just hard-rockin’ 80s metal flavors. “Fortis Green” sounds like a lost outtake from 1967-68 (think Something Else By The Kinks and The Village Green Preservation Society) complete with whimsical Salvation Army band styled Tubas and Trumpets ‘n such. The final suite of songs delve into electronica and dance music textures.  And “Flowers In The Rain” is simply a gorgeous chamber pop love ballad, replete with heart-string tugging string quartet textures and acoustic piano. 

Few people could write a power ballad in these 21st Century tymes with the word “rock” in it that doesn’t invoke a cringe, but on “Rock Me, Rock You” Dave Davies pulls it off effortlessly. It makes you want to stand on your chair and raise your lighter with the cheering crowd…  even listening at home…

Writing this out, Bug sounds like a wildly eclectic collection and it is in a way (like the best Kinks albums, actually!) but really it all works well together. And in many ways it works better on vinyl than on CD even, with each side being something of a mini suite of related musics. 

All this is no small feat for an album that seems to be about aliens, brain implants and interstellar visitation!  Seriously folks, don’t let the subject matter freak you too much — this is a real good British hard rock record at its core with grand pop fringes.  In other words, if you every enjoyed The Kinks’ music from Schoolboys In Disgrace onward, you’ll probably like Bug a whole bunch!

Some of you may be wondering how the new vinyl version of Bug compares to the original CD. I think it is a significant improvement! Not that the original version was a bad sounding release as CDs go, but it was a bit bright.  The new album retains that shimmer but is overall much fuller sounding, especially on the mid ranges and low end.  

There is a sort of one-dimensionality to the 2002 CD that is replaced with a lovely depth of field, swapping out any remnant harshness as you turn up the volume for increased amplifier tone and vocal presence. It is all in the little details. For example, the vibrato/reverb-treated guitar lines on “Who’s Fooling Who?” pop more distinctly on this new release. The kick drum punches through much more powerfully now. Each time I play it, other details emerge which I hadn’t noticed previously…

Bug is a colorful listening journey lyrically, melodically and performance-wise. A great record worth revisiting (or visiting anew!) especially on vinyl.  I’m glad I asked Dave about it… 

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