The Kinks returned during the spring of 1978 with their second album of self-contained rock in a row. While it may not have been as cohesive as its predecessor, Sleepwalker, its individual parts were very good. Misfits contained fine examples of Ray Davies’ English wit, his biting social commentary, his always interesting thoughts about life, and best of all his ability to create energetic rock and roll with incisive lyrics. It all added up to one of the more consistent albums of The Kinks career.
The title song, in addition to setting the rock tempo for the album, was a lament by Ray Davies that The Kinks never really fit in. His series of concept albums had received little to almost no commercial success, resulting in the Kinks being referred to as, “The best band you never heard of.” His return to straight rock and roll rejuvenated the band’s success as it was more mainstream and smooth than much of their music of the past decade. Misfits proved to be a consistent seller in the U.S. and even contained a top 40 single. It seems as if one of rock’s ultimate misfits was finally learning how to fit in.
“A Rock & Roll Fantasy” was the hit single and was dedicated to the fan base that had stood by him through thick and thin. This song about the mirage of popularity would gain him a number of new fans as well.
There were several tracks that presented Ray Davies’ style in microcosm. His “Hay Fever” combined allergies and sex into one witty tale. “Permanent Waves” was a song about the mundane, in this case hairstyles. “Black Messiah” brought his satire front and center for this political tale. “Out Of The Wardrobe” picked up on the sexual themes of “Lola.”
Hidden away in the album was one of Dave Davies’ better creations. “Trust Your Heart” was an emotional song of beauty that featured some of his expert guitar licks.
Misfits may not have been a masterpiece but it was a strong album of rock songs. It continued the band’s resurgence in the U.S. and remains a fine example of their late 1970s and early 1980s career.