Mark Doyle examines the relationship between the Kinks and their city, from their early songs of teenage rebellion to their later album-length works of social criticism, providing a unique perspective on the way in which the band responded to the shifting nature of working-class life.
Here in 2020, writing about the Kinks — about any of the groups of the 1960s —is increasingly a nostalgic act ... So it is to Mark Doyle’s considerable credit that in this book he succeeds in making the Kinks’s records, these historical recordings from a bygone era, seem brand new, fresh and relevant; and he does so by recreating the past ... The result is a book that distinguishes between the musical and lyrical conservatism of which Davies has been accused and the ambivalence and compassion which informs his best songs. I know these records inside out, but Doyle sent me back to them with fresh insights and enthusiasm ... There are more straightforward accounts of the Kinks’s career available, including some by members of the group, but few are as eloquent, persuasive or fully engaged as Songs of the Semi-Detached.
...excellent... [Doyle's] book is a welcome piece of historically informed criticism that situates the Kinks in their proper milieu—postwar, working-class North London—and their cultural moment: the British music explosion of the 1960s ... For a book that doesn’t once mention Brexit, The Kinks: Songs of the Semi-Detached demonstrates precisely how Britain arrived at the referendum of June 2016.
...biography serves as a mere backdrop for Doyle ... Despite its title, his work is less about the Kinks than it is a study of the art of Ray Davies seen through the prism of sociological research. As a result, the subsidiary Kinks are almost invisible ... the emphasis is on social history, with particular reference to class, kinship, mobility and the environment in which the Kinks operated, as well as previously undocumented influences that may have informed Davies’s songwriting ... It’s academically sound, the scope is impressive but, paradoxically, the deeper Doyle delves, the greater distance we’re taken from the Kinks to a point where even the most insightful connections appear tantalisingly tenuous. It’s as if a completely new book is surfacing, overwhelming and threatening to displace the current one.