After three muddled messes of questionable ideas and unrealized ambition, the Kinks finally delivered a solid rock theatre piece with "Schoolboys in Disgrace."
Ray's material is tight, and the band sounds rejuvenated as they rip through one great song after another, effortlessly moving from hard rock to '50s homages to prog-influenced epics. Dave Davies steals the show with awesome guitar work on "Headmaster" and "No More Looking Back."
Instead of telling a linear story, Ray focuses on individual feelings and situations that are thematically linked but also stand on their own. The result is more like the classic "Arthur" album, and a huge improvement over "Preservation" and "Soap Opera," where the songs were so stuffed with plot they had no room to breathe.
"Schoolboys" is one of the Kinks' best albums and a beacon of creativity and excellence among their spotty '70s work. If you're curious about the Kinks' fascinating but often frustrating rock theatre period, start here!