Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Kinks 20: Schoolboys In Disgrace

Well, at least this one rocks, finally, but Ray Davies still seemed pathologically bent towards concepts. The point of Schoolboys In Disgrace would be that the education system serves only to repress creativity and browbeat the poor little kiddies into kowtowing to authority. And maybe, that’s how ordinary juvenile delinquents turn into full-fledged villains like Mr. Flash, or so the note on the back cover suggests. (The band even dressed the part, in hideous green uniforms that would be bettered by Angus Young, and Ray donning a mask for the headmaster that was equal parts Gabriel-era Genesis and one of Gerald Scarfe’s puppets for The Wall, still four years away.)
Often the album leans on ‘50s parody, reflecting the band’s own ages and the wave of greasy nostalgia sweeping pop culture at the time. “Schooldays” finds Ray looking back wistfully yet again to his younger days, even missing the teachers and textbooks he hated. “Jack The Idiot Dunce” pits a portrait of an object of ridicule living in ignorant bliss against a Jerry Lee Lewis piano. The lengthy “Education” chronicles the journey from primitive man’s quest for basic knowledge to the oversaturated curricula of today’s competitive schools. Unfortunately, it has too many stops and starts, as befits a big production number. The over-the-top basso voice that begins “The First Time We Fall In Love” defies the listener to take it serious, despite its barbed commentary on the pain of young romance.
“I’m In Disgrace” takes a much more specific approach to the same theme, and it’s a much better song, though some of the lyrics suggest a sinister cause for the end of the affair (“It wasn't lust, it wasn't rape/It was just a mistake”). Great guitars though. Whatever shame the disgraced schoolboy feels is confessed to the “Headmaster”, and the anguish only increases as the pleading gets more desperate. The unfeeling response in “The Hard Way” rams the point home. After three straight tracks of solid rock, the gospel R&B of “The Last Assembly” points to such future graduation themes as “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” and “Good Riddance”. “No More Looking Back” could well be a prophetic title, as the electric piano at the start and the melded guitars certainly place it squarely in the ‘70s. But the parody returns for the minute-long “Finale”, which reprises the brainwashing message of “Education”.
Thanks to the guitar-centric arrangements, Schoolboys In Disgrace is one of the better Kinks albums of their “theatrical” period, but only if you don’t listen too closely to the story and skip the sillier numbers. Dave Davies can take some of the credit for the sound, which is small compensation since some of the events dramatized within are based on his own teenage misadventures. (Perhaps because they were working so fast to get records on the shelves, it’s also that rare Kinks album that hasn’t been enhanced by any reissue.)

The Kinks Schoolboys In Disgrace (1975)—

4 comments:

  1. I think this album is awesome, I bought it new in 1975 - Ray still doesnt get credit for coming up with this concept to begin with (same with soap opera) he is a genius and all the songs here FIT ...GSTK.

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  2. I loved all the Kinks concept albums especially Soap Opera and Schoolboys in Disgrace. Some great guitar work by Dave on both albums.

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  3. Love the album ...... but It’s a hard way to find respect for the review if you get a song title wrong. “I’m in Disgrace” is the song, not what you wrote.

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