Ray(mond Douglas) Davies Jim Green - Essay

Jim Green

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Brothers Davies—better known as the Kinks—have survived a decade and a half of the rock wars. As Ray puts it in "A Rock and Roll Fantasy," "it's a miracle we're still here." Last year's Sleepwalker was the debut on their third label, Arista, and made the biggest impression in the charts of any Kinks LP yet. Considering the brilliance of their recorded output, it's about time [the Kinks had a commercial success].

On the evidence of Misfits, perhaps Ray Davies thinks so too, and decided to hasten the band's attainment of the commercial success they so richly deserve by doing what he could to homogenize the music for mass acceptance. Or maybe, after having worked on the album so long …, his judgement in selecting the best tracks was impaired. Whatever the reason (and don't tell me it's because they're old farts), Misfits is the first Kinks album I've found to be fairly bland, unexciting and, well, ordinary.

Not completely ordinary—how many hard-rockers do you find singing about "Hay Fever"? And there's also an embarrassing number called "Black Messiah," about which the less said the better. But—and talk about embarrassing—who wants to say much about the Kinks' almost-disco track ("Get Up")? And go figure "Out of the Wardrobe," the touching story of a transvestite who reverses roles with his wife and they live happily ever after?

Yet the unique personal touch of Ray Davies, the thing that makes the Kinks truly special, is curiously muted or foregone in favor of obtaining a commercial sound, except for "Rock and Roll Fantasy," which carries on another Kinks tradition, that of Ray stealing from himself—by borrowing from the theme of the excellent "Jukebox Music" (from Sleepwalker). Aside from some bright moments in some of the songs previously mentioned, there [is only one strikingly good Ray Davies track] … on the record—"In a Foreign Land."…

[The] promise held out by their brilliant Christmas single ["Father Christmas"/"Prince of the Punks"] has gone unfulfilled.

It hurts to have to say all this. After all, is this what we rabid Kinkophiles have been waiting for so long? I don't think so—it's hardly a Kinks album. God save the Kinks—from making another like this.

Jim Green, "Album Reviews: 'Misfits'," in Trouser Press (copyright © 1978 by Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press, Inc.), Vol. 5, No. 6, July, 1978, p. 48.