Kinda Kinks followed the band’s debut album and the Kinksize Session EP, with The Kinks rolling off some serious heat and momentum. As it were, the band was forced to rush the recording sessions to hit a quick release date, and between late 1964 and early 65, recording the album before, during, and after a whirlwind World Tour. Reportedly Ray Davies was not particularly pleased with the album production, and felt that many of its rough edges had been sanded down. Nonetheless, the sonic experience is a huge step forward in comparison with the debut album. It no longer sounds like it was recorded somewhere down the hall, live, into a single microphone.
As an album experience, Kinda Kinks is also a significant step forward in terms of the quality of the songs. For starters, of the 12 album tracks, only 2 are covers. There’s much more musical variety here than the endless blues/mersey/skiffle rock riffing of the previous LP. The band was slowly but surely beginning to gel into The Kinks as an original band, and not just another nameless British Invasion group. The shuffle and swing of “Look For Me Baby” opens the album as to assure the listener that the group has evolved. It’s not the greatest song, but its already a head taller than its previous album brethren. “Got My Feet On The Ground”, unfortunately, feels a little regressive. Unmemorable mid-60s blues/skiffle-rock. Nothing to see here.
As almost an apology, The Kinks first masterpiece comes next with the folky, acoustic-driven “Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl”. Prominently featured in the 1998 Wes Anderson film “Rushmore” (where I first heard and fell in love with it). Everything about this track simply works, and works beautifully: the songwriting, the production, the musicality, the tenor that matches the melancholia of the subject matter. It has one foot in the British Invasion sound, and a bigger foot in the type of songs for which The Kinks would soon become renown. Without question, this is the album standout.
Oy, here comes another blues cover. Much like “Act Naturally” destroyed the ambiance of “Yesterday” on The Beatles’ American Yesterday & Today LP, “Naggin’ Woman” is a slow bluesy number that, again, it’s alright but NOTHING special. Similar can be said of “Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight”, an original song which is better than the previous track, but not a standout. Still, in terms of batting averages we’re ahead of the debut album, and this lead is further cemented by the exquisite “Tired Of Waiting For You”, another “Oldies Radio” standard. I love Ray’s vocal delivery on this song, the jangling guitar riffs, the way it builds and drops. It’s definitely cemented in all the conventions of 1965 era Britpop, but it manages to rise above similar-minded songs.
An absolutely pointless cover of “Dancing In The Streets” comes next. Move right along. “Don’t Ever Change” is a bit of an uptempo Mersey ballad which is surprisingly enjoyable, given its simplistic, sometimes dopey lyrical content. Even the equally dopey “Come On Now“ has a goofy charm; is it the back-and-forth vocals on the chorus or the anchoring chimey guitar lick? Who knows… it’s a fun little tune though.
In a similar style to “Nothin’ in the World…” we have “So Long”, which, while not as strong a song, is still a confident and mature work from a band that, scant months earlier, was cranking out Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley covers. “You Shouldn’t Be Sad”, on the other hand, is pretty forgettable, as is “Something Better Beginning”. As both songs close the album, it’s pretty clear that these lesser tracks were relegated to the rear.
So Kinda Kinks is a definite improvement. Only half the album is forgettable filler this time around, with one undeniable masterpiece in “Nothin’ in the World” and a great song in “Tired Of Waiting”, and several other songs which are enjoyable enough on their own, if not standouts. The band’s growth curve is clearly expanding, there’s a sense of variety and diversity of style that was sorely missing from before. While I don’t think Kinda Kinks is an essential album by any means whatsoever, it’s still worth seeking out by Kinks faithful.
2001 CD BONUS TRACKS
The first 1965 single, “Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy “is an annoying pop pile of nothingness. It’s almost like generic 1960s dance music you might find in a generic 60s Disney beach film. “Who’ll Be The Next In Line”, the B-side, fares a little better, but it’s musically unimpressive and feels lazy and rough-sounding.
The following 1965 single, “Set Me Free” is more memorable, a minor-key shuffle with a haunting bridge and a catchy chorus. The B-side, “I Need You”, is more in the style of “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night”. Not as good as those two songs. It almost feels like Generic Early Kinks Music, but it’s a mostly agreeable song.
Much more impressive is “See My Friends”, the summer 1965 single, shows how in front of the curve the band was when it came to incorporating Eastern/Indian cadences into their music (“Norwegian Wood” was MONTHS away!) This is a great single, said to have been inspired from a walk Ray took in Mumbai, listening to the morning songs and chants from local fishermen. Moving on to the B-side, “Never Met A Girl Like You Before” will make you think your listening to “Tired of Waiting” with its almost identical opening lick. Fat chance. It turns into a generic mid-60s rock song with nothing of any interest held within.
Jangling 12-string fretwork opens up the first track from the Kwyet Kinks EP, “Wait Till the Summer Comes Along”. Decent song with a strong folk influence, almost a Dylan tune. “Such A Shame”, on the other hand, is pretty weak. Repetitive and flat, it’s eminently skippable.
The jaunty, exceptional “Well Respected Man” brings things back, another standout from The Kinks early period. Skewering the conventions of the British upper classes, it really is vintage Kinks material in both lyrics and music. I also enjoy “Don’t You Fret” quite a bit; the instrumental build-up in the center of the song feels kinda epic.
Finally we have a sometimes-rough demo of “I Go To Sleep”, a haunting piano tune which would have made Kinda Kinks a heck of a lot more interesting. It’s dark, obsessive, and more than a bit disturbing. Would have loved its inclusion on the album proper. It went on to be covered by Peggy Lee, The Applejacks, Cher, and The Pretenders.