"Schoolboys in Disgrace" is, without any doubt, the most impressive and enjoyable album that Ray Davies has written and produced since those halcyon days when the Kinks delivered that essential series of records which includes "Face To Face," "Something Else," "Village Green" and "Arthur."
Davies' recent work, particularly the ambitious "Preservation" trilogy, has not been entirely without its memorable moments, but all too often his vision has lacked that spectacular clarity which characterised many of his earlier compositions.
This album is a celebration of those qualities one admired so completely in Davies as a writer. He's not fully recovered his impressive facility for evocative, commercial melodies, but the majority of the songs contained in this collection have a similar, articulate, affectionate sense of nostalgia about them, which anyone at all familiar with that sequence of albums will immediately recognise. Davies has … rehabilitated himself as a writer….
The essential concept of "Schoolboys" is an elaboration of a theme tentatively expressed as far back as "David Watts"—the opening shot of "Something Else." It examines the predicament of an adolescent confronting the pressures of an educational system which confuses rather than informs, and increases the pressures of living in a conformist society.
These are themes which Davies has explored more recently in the three acts of the "Preservation" saga, but here he has concentrated on a specific environment—the segregated, enclosed world of a boy's public school. The hero is a juvenile version of Flash, the villain of "Preservation," who resists The System represented by his headmaster and is humiliated and punished for his rebellion….
The bitterness and anger which runs through much of "School days" is assuaged by the author's genuine concern and his ultimate lack of cynicism and misanthropy. Even a song like "The First Time We Fall In Love," an overtly bitter composition, has its antithesis in "I'm In Disgrace." "Schoolboys In Disgrace" is a beautifully sustained concept. When we've got writers like Ray Davies who really needs New York hoodlum poets and rock heroes who limp on and refuse to grow old gracefully…. Welcome back, Ray, we've really missed you.
Allan Jones, "Kinks Is No Disgrace!" in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), January 3, 1976, p. 23.