Record #444: The Kinks – Face to Face

face to face

Perhaps no one in pop music history has been treated as unkindly as the Kinks. But despite being blacklisted by American venues and losing the interest of record companies stateside, they continued to create absolutely beautiful music.

While singles like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night” were practically punk, Face to Face, their fourth album, found the group shaving some of the rough edges off and focusing hard on melody and intricate arrangements.

And they basically invented baroque pop doing it. The chiming electric guitars are occasionally accompanied by harpsichord, leading the charge of frilly-shirted British psychedelia to come. “Fancy” plays like a droning raga, albeit sans sitar. Songs like “Rainy Day in June” and “Most Exclusive Residence for Sale” showcase Ray Davies’ maturing sense of melody.

But all of that isn’t to say that the fury of those earlier tracks is absent. “Party Line” and “A House in the Country” are just as raunchy and raucous. “Holiday in Waikiki” is as pure rock and roll as it gets (you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Little Richard cover).

Throughout the record, Ray Davies is consistently sardonic. His wit and humor is on full display, irreverent and devil-may-care as ever.

The undisputed standout is “Sunny Afternoon,” a plodding, lackadaisical lament that broke through the U.S. touring ban to reach the 14th spot on the Billboard Chart. Commercial performance aside, “Sunny Afternoon” seems like the moment Damon Albarn was conjured into existence—a moment we should all be grateful for.

But overall, Face to Face is a collection of great songs—all of which stand toe-to-toe against anything the Beatles or Stones were putting out at the same time. If history were kinder to them, classic rock stations would have early morning shows dedicated to dissecting their history rather than those other guys.

(Sidenote: I still love the Beatles and think their history is worth dissecting).

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