The vocals are delivered consistently mockingly by Ray, with overly parodic rock arrangements and intentionally trite strings. Dialogue punctuates each song, including input from the befuddled wife; the listener is forced to read along with the libretto to catch all the extra minutiae. The opening “Everybody’s A Star (Starmaker)” turns the sentiment of “Celluloid Heroes” inside out, and it’s not bad as a single, but then the plot takes over. Frankly, his view of “Ordinary People” who suffer from the “Rush Hour Blues” because they have to work “Nine To Five” is truly condescending, mostly because we don’t think he’s being ironic. It’s no shock that these people go straight to the bar “When Work Is Over”, where the only respite is to “Have Another Drink”; after all, that activity had been one of Ray’s more common themes for several albums going.
“Underneath The Neon Sign” opens side two, and it’s a track that could possibly stand alone outside the story line, though the arrangement could use a lot more delicacy to deliver the emotion. That’s also the problem with “Holiday Romance”, a faux-cabaret detour shoehorned into the plot to act as an escapist daydream. There’s a nice chorus in “You Make It All Worthwhile”, but the rest of the track is derailed by excess pathos and a radio-drama organ (no, really). “Ducks On The Wall” further illustrates the protagonist’s frustration by lashing out at the avian décor, made even more maddening by actual quacking impressions throughout. “(A) Face In The Crowd”, despite the unnecessary parenthetical article, is another existential crisis that might work on its own. Then “You Can’t Stop The Music” moots all that went before, acknowledging “the rock stars of the past” who have since faded to obscurity, but for the immortality of the music they created.
With the exception of an occasional Dave Davies riff, the Kinks are used as sidemen, and the music is cartoonish. A few of the tracks segue well to keep the story moving, but it’s not easy to care about any of these people. All together there are four tracks on this album—the first tracks on each side and the last two numbers—that would work without being shackled to a concept, and that’s not enough. The eventual reissue added a single mix of “Everybody’s A Star”, plus three live performances from the highly staged tour that followed; the band was tight, as were the actors. Ultimately, A Soap Opera is just as trivial as the television genre it apes.
The Kinks A Soap Opera (1975)—2
1998 Konk CD reissue: same as 1975, plus 4 extra tracks