Ray(mond Douglas) Davies Nancy Erlich - Essay

Nancy Erlich

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The first question to be asked about a new Kinks album has to be: What is Ray Davies going to say about the world this time?… It is a fairly well-accepted opinion among people who listen to lyrics that Davies is a master songwriter, an unexcelled painter of people and scenes. In the course of 16 or so Kinks albums, he has created dozens—maybe hundreds—of incisive, bittersweet, funny-sad observations on the ways that people live. The British group's past several American tours have established an irreconcilable contrast between Ray Davies, the sensitive and intelligent songwriter, and the onstage buffoon of the same name.

"Everybody's In Show Biz" is about that contrast….

The new material is desperately grim. On the one hand, Davies' lyrics with an unaccustomed lack of subtlety, come out and say how unpleasant the various aspects of the star's life are. On the other hand, that ambiguity of emotion, the understanding of several sides of a situation that usually characterizes Davies' songs, is here temporarily (I hope) suspended. The result is basically a series of musical complaints, literate, occasionally charming, at one point ("Sunny Side") obnoxiously cynical, and consistently depressing….

The two records were evidently not intended to be the Kinks' most enjoyable release. They can, however, be pretty instructive listening for all the young guitar players who would like to grow up to be pop stars.

Nancy Erlich, "Kinks' Contrast," in The New York Times, Section 2 (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 12, 1972, p. D30.