4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
easily one of the best 70's albums by the kinks,
This review is from: Soap Opera (Audio CD)
this album has gotten a LOT of bad press. here at amazon.com, people only tend to write reviews of albums that they enjoy, so if you're only looking here, you might not really grasp how poorly this album is regarded in the kinks katalog (sorry). according to AMG this album is about as bad as the disasterous 80's era "hard rock" kinks albums. why such toxic press? well, "a soap opera" was a product of that period in kinks history when davies was consumed with the idea of the "concept album". but, unlike the "preservation" project (which SHOULD have been great, but was too messy to be really effective) "a soap opera" is more focused and personal, concentrating on one or two characters, rather than an entire ensemble cast.
the concept here seems to be something like this: a big rockstar wants to record a song (or album) about being a "normal, working class" person. so he trades places with a man named norman, and we hear as the main character has to adjust to the mundane life of the everyman. tracks like "rush hour blues", "nine to five", "have another drink", and others, all perfectly convey the numbing drudgery of the clock punching joe who lurches through the motions from day to day. these aren't really original themes, but davies communicates them with a genuine sense of empathy that, in the hands of a lesser songwriter, would devolve into caricature or condescending pity.
personally, i'm not a big fan of concept albums. i think that they're bloated and self-indulgent, and i associate them with "prog rock", which i hate. what saves "a soap opera" is that it's not impossible to listen to the songs on their own, out of the context of the larger story. doing so makes the songs seem a little redundant thematically, but it doesn't rob them of their quality.
the highlights include:
"underneath the neon sign" - a ballad lamenting the rise of the giant post-industrial cityscape at the expense of nature (a theme that would've been perfectly at home on "...village green"), complete with a ridiculous, but charming, horn drenched bridge.
"holiday romance" - a classic kinks "music hall" type number that would've fit perfectly on "muswell hillbillies".
"you make it all worthwhile" - an overtly sentimental, but still very touching song. the staccato strings during the choppy, dramatic verse, contrast beautifully with the calm and ease of the chorus, where the main character explains to his wife that, even though his job is driving him mad, she does exactly what the title suggests.
even if you weren't impressed by the preservation albums, i'd still recommend picking this album up. by kinks standards, it may not be the best album of their career, but it's still head and shoulders above most of the other pompous dreck that was being recorded in 1975.