Captain America Calling: The Kinks’ “Catch Me Now I’m Falling”

The ‘70s weren’t exactly a great time for the Kinks – or America for that matter. After an amazing run of critically beloved albums to close out the ‘60s, the Kinks were now languishing in pop purgatory, with neither the rave reviews nor chart success of old to keep the Davies brothers warm at night – although given the soaring cost of oil in the ‘70s, who could afford to heat their home anyway? Faced with a ban on touring the United States during the height of the British Invasion, the Kinks eschewed the psychedelic, drug-fueled excess of Beatlemania by adopting a more inward-looking, quintessentially English sound, culminating in their landmark 1968 album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Yet by the late ‘70s, principal Kinks songwriter Ray Davies was increasingly looking to America for answers, perhaps finding a kindred spirit drawn from his growing sense of rejection and isolation.

Released on their 1979 album Low Budget, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” is a cry for help from the perspective of Marvel superhero Captain America, who laments his country’s fair-weather friends ignoring the United States in its moment of need. With lingering cynicism over Watergate and the Vietnam War, not to mention a stagnant economy racked by inflation and unemployment, surely the United States of the late ‘70s needed every friend it could get. Backed by a riff borrowing liberally from the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and a compelling performance from Ray Davies, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” is a plaintive rocker that proved the Kinks could still surprise, even if this “crossfire hurricane” would’ve paired better with President Jimmy Carter’s dull “malaise” speech than the exciting social upheaval of the ‘60s. The song’s lyrics read like a Marshall Plan guilt trip, bemoaning how the United States rebuilt half of Europe after World War II only to receive little more than a baguette and a cold shoulder now that Captain America was ready to call in those favours. The parallels to our current climate of American jingoism and Donald Trump’s “woe is me” routine might make a touchy subject for today’s listeners, but with such a driving beat and blistering chorus it’s no wonder “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” helped transform the Kinks into an arena rock staple of the early ‘80s. By evoking the spirit of “American exceptionalism” they found their biggest audience yet. And while we can all celebrate the Kinks’ new lease on life in the wake of Low Budget, there’s no denying the last 40 years showing us that maybe it’s high time we let Captain America fall on his ass once and for all. Don’t worry about it, Captain. We got you.

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