It isn't only because I received this album gratis that I won't take the safe way out and coo something glib like, "To hear Ray Davies intone such lines as 'You'd better come to bed, darling' (in tones so urbane as to cause Bryan Ferry to tremble with envy) is alone sufficient justification for the purchase of Soap Opera."
Nor on the other hand will I succumb to the enormous temptation to sniff, "On Soap Opera the Kinks sound pretty well washed up."
What I will tell you is that, compared to such earlier splendors of their creation as the utterly marvelous Arthur — of which Soap is in many ways a lame and tepid rehash — this album sounds like the work of a group that's attempting to conceal the evaporation of its genius by inserting spoken dialogue between tracks so they can ask you to believe they're pioneering the concept of the rock-album-as-theater.
Musically, there isn't one really striking melody on the album, although there are plenty of tedious, hackneyed, ready-made ones: It may be that I didn't retain sufficiently close rein on my attention, but I still can't recall hearing even one remotely arresting melodic phrase throughout the album. As for the words, we're one to ignore the laxly adhered to, skeletally developed and none-too-innovative plot (a big shot investigates an alternative, less glamorous life-style and discovers too late that he can't return to his own). One might well hear this album as a collection of songs Ray left unrecorded over the years because he knew he could do much better. Surely he's treated every theme represented here infinitely more poignantly elsewhere. Example:
Answering phones and dictating letters
Making decisions that affect no one
Stuck in the office from nine until five
Life is so incredibly dull
Working from nine to five.
To be fair, no album featuring Ray Davies's singing could ever be less than at least intermittently delightful. Why spring for Soap Opera, though, when you could instead add to your collection one of the many Kinks albums that are as amazing for what's being sung as for how it's being sung.
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