The Kinks: Everybody's In Show Biz (RCA VPS 6065). The first question to be asked about a new Kinks album has to be: What is Ray Davies going to say about the world this time? Davies is the flamboyant superstar personality who writes and sings most of the group's material and makes or breaks their live performances. It is a fairly well-accepted opinion among people who listen to lyrics that Davies is a master songwriter, an unexcelled painter of people and scenes. In the course of 16 or so Kinks albums, he has created dozens - maybe hundreds - of incisive, bittersweet, funny-sad observations on the way that people live. The British group's past several American tours have established in irreconcilable contrast between Ray Davies, the sensitive and intelligent songwriter, and the onstage buffoon of the same name.
This two-album set is about that contrast. The second album is a recording of a live concert, all wild good spirits and spurting brasses and - recent development - good playing from the group. The first record is a comment on the other one, a series of songs about what it's like to be that funny man in the spotlight.
The new material is desperately grim. On the one hand, Davies' lyrics with an unaccustomed lack of subtlety, come out and say how unpleasant the various aspects of the star's life are. On the other hand, that ambiguity of emotion, the understanding of several sides of a situation that generally characterize Davies' songs, is here temporarily (I hope) suspended. The result is basically a series of musical complaints, literate, occasionally charming, at one point ("Sunny Side") obnoxiously cynical, and consistently depressing.
Even the boisterous gaiety of the live album isn't fun in this context; it can't be when you are made watch the concert through the eyes of the bitterly dissatisfied performer. The two records are evidently not intended to be the Kinks' most enjoyable release. They can, however, be pretty instructive listening for all young guitar players who would like to grow up to be pop stars.
Nancy Erlich, The New York Times, November 12, 1972