"Face to Face"
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
The Kinks were ultimately famous for (although ultimately less famous than their compatriots The Beatles) for being the band that didn’t take itself seriously enough to, well, become as famous as The Beatles. They were to pop rock what I am to journalism.
This isn’t something worth holding against them. When it came to making straightforward pop songs, The Kinks were never going to catch up with The Beatles. So it was for the best when vocalist/guitarist Ray Davies decided to quit holding back on his sardonic nature on “Face to Face.”
The Kinks’ fans love the band for its underhanded shots at the subjects of its songs. Up until “Face to Face,” The Kinks had released three albums of pop rock that did not live up to the competition. The change in sound is evident when you compare the sounds of the “leftover” track on the album, “You’re Lookin’ Fine,” with anything else.
The switch is attributable to Davies’ nervous breakdown prior to recording (the basis for the song “Too Much On My Mind”). He jumped back quicker than Brian Wilson did, but his songwriting attitude was radically different. Most of the tracks are subtly witty, with three of them taking aim at wealth and fame in British society: ”House in The Country,” “Most Exclusive Residence For Sale” and “Sunny Afternoon.”
Other topics include resort vacations (“Holiday in Waikiki”) and perhaps the original song about emo kids, “Little Miss Queen of Darkness.”
Davies reportedly despised the psychedelic album art, thinking that it cheapened the band’s new, “deeper” approach. It was just a sign that the industry was nervous about the group’s new approach. They kept a typical cover to draw in listeners, even if the music wouldn’t.
The acerbic tone didn’t resonate with the buyers, as label executives probably predicted. The album debuted no. 139 on the U.S. charts, a drop from the group’s previous albums. The long-term elements worked out to the band’s favor however. When critics look back at The Kinks, they don’t see the British Invasion prototype set forth in the band’s first three albums. They see the group through the viewfinder that it created with “Face to Face.”
INTERESTING FACT: Between bassist Pete Quaife’s injury during recording, the hiring of a session bassist, and occasional fill-in on bass from Davies, no one actually knows who is playing on the recorded version of “Rainy Day in June.”