I had never actually listened to The Kinks before outside of a few isolated songs, so I was excited to do my first full album by them. Unfortunately, I think I’m forced to agree with the mostly negative reception it’s gotten.
The production is uniformly wonderful, which is a big plus, and musically a lot of the songs are pleasing enough. If there’s a plot to this rock opera, however, I can’t see one. Worse yet, the lyrics are utterly grating. Davies wants to be a cutting satirist but he paints with far too broad a brush and far too simple a sentiment to come off as anything other than smarmy a lot of the time. Where Randy Newman’s satire is horrifyingly cruel because it’s laced with empathy and pity, Davies clearly considers himself above most of the people he’s describing and treats them as such. It’s not amusing, it’s obnoxious.
As said above, I mildly enjoyed a good deal of the album’s melodies, but they can’t rescue it from the lyrics for me. Having seen that this is generally considered the beginning of the end for the band, though, it won’t deter me from eventually seeking out their earlier work.