Album box-set: The Kinks, Picture Book (Sanctuary)
This long-overdue retrospective spreads The Kinks' career across six CDs, charting their progress from garage-pop pioneers to (small-"c") conservative commentators on English mores.
From the start, they were sonic adventurists, capitalising on equipment malfunctions to achieve the rasping riff of "You Really Got Me" and the drone-like quality of "See My Friends"; but it was only after the Dylanesque "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?" that Ray Davies stumbled upon the mode of ironic social-realist disenchantment which, through laconic gems such as "Sunny Afternoon" and "Waterloo Sunset", prefigured the strain of ironic British pop that endured through the likes of Squeeze, Blur and Pulp. To realise Davies' visions, the band devised their own brand of music-hall-influenced baroque pop, incorporating harpsichords, oboes and barroom piano alongside staple rock instruments on albums with unwieldy titles like The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. However, the second half of this set demonstrates the downside of Davies' prolificacy, as he returned to the same themes time and again in a string of concept albums on which his gift for hooky singles grew less and less reliable.
Pick of the Album: 'You Really Got Me', 'See My Friends', 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Dead End Street', 'Waterloo Sunset'