The Kinks returned with their second studio effort of 1975 with another concept album, following in the footsteps of such releases as Soap Opera and their two Preservation albums. It was a fine comeback, as the lyrics and music were superior to the series of releases that directly preceded it.
Schoolboys In Disgrace contained a coherent story with interesting lyrics that hung together well while managing to be extremely entertaining. The music, in a number of places, veered back toward a rock sound that left the theatrics that had dominated their recent style behind. It may not have been the perfect album but it was very well done.
Ray Davies managed to create an album of melody and focused music as he explored the themes of school and growing up. They were nostalgic stories that resonated with the music-buying public in the United States, which propelled it to a great deal of commercial success.
The album’s first two tracks, “Schooldays” and “Jack The Idiot Dunce” quickly showed that Ray Davies’ sense of humor had returned. While the music may not have been the best the album had to offer, the lyrics established the story and grabbed your attention.
“Education” was a seven-minute track that may have been overblown in places but it ramped up the dramatic nature of the story as the music built to a satisfying climax.
The second side of the original vinyl release began with a series of three songs that rank with some of the best the band has ever produced. “I’m In Disgrace,” “Headmaster,” and “The Hard Way” travel from unwanted pregnancy to confession of sins to humiliation and expulsion. The sound is a return to the rock ‘n’ roll style of their past. Dave Davies cranked up the power chords and riffs that had been missing on a number of their previous releases and which would point toward their future output. “The Last Assembly,” the song immediately following “The Hard Way,” was a wistful piece that was a perfect counterpoint to what had just preceded it.
Schoolboys In Disgrace is an album that has aged well and ranks in the upper echelon of Kinks releases. It still deserves a listen every once in a while and is an album that should be cranked up loud.