The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached

Reaktion. Apr. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781789142303. pap. $16. MUSIC
Given that two well-received biographies of the Kinks have appeared in the last five years, and that the group’s founders and brothers Ray and Dave Davies have already each published a memoir, readers would be forgiven for assuming there’s little else to say about the band. Yet with this brief, insightful volume, Doyle (history, Middle Tennessee State Univ.) reveals a new angle: what he calls “historically informed rock criticism.” He argues that although the Kinks’ origins were in working-class north London and they were part of the British invasion, “they were never fully of either world.” This “detachment” was key to their art. By studying the Kinks’ musical output in the context of the spheres in which they operated, Doyle creates an almost sociological portrait of the group’s values, city, and views on the music industry. The author pays special attention to Ray Davies’s lyrical brilliance on songs such as “Sunny Afternoon” and “The Village Green Preservation Society” and albums including Muswell Hillbillies, in which he depicted working-class England with such ambiguity that listeners could hear either sarcasm or bittersweet empathy, depending on one’s point of view.
VERDICT This thoughtfully researched book will be best appreciated by true fans of the band, as well as devotees of 1960s rock and pop.

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