Although their October 1964 eponymous debut album contains the immortal You Really Got Me and the sweet Stop Your Sobbing, Kinda Kinks is really the first proper Kinks album.
The significant progress made by the north London quartet in just five months is shown in the new dominance of original compositions. Whereas that debut was stuffed with covers, with the exception of Naggin’ Woman and Dancing in the Street, their second album is all written by the band’s frontman Ray Davies (assisted by little brother lead guitarist Dave on one track).
The covers here are, in fact, almost laughable. With its reedy, ingénue vocal, Naggin’ Woman is shorn of all blues belligerence, sounding comedic, if pleasantly so. The rinky-dink arrangement given Dancing in the Street, meanwhile, is cringe-worthy in light of the sensual Motown original.
Not that new songs always equates with great songs. On tracks like the generic R&B Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight and the insubstantial noodle So Long, Ray Davies’ own popcraft is clearly evolving but is not quite there. He is more successful in his snatching for greatness in the haunted acoustic blues-pop Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl and Don’t Ever Change, a knowing pop song with a thunderous bottom end. With Tired of Waiting for You – a lovely wisp of melancholia – the achievement is unequivocal, although this is not all due to Davies: the leisurely drum rolls of session man Bobby Graham are exquisite. The cascades of guitar, cooing backing vocals and swelling arrangement in closer Something Better Beginning assert that the sublime melody and acute personal vision of the peak period of Davies and his cohorts is just around the corner.
That peak period is partly represented by the bonus tracks on the various expanded versions of this album released on CD down the years. The cache of singles, B sides, EP tracks and demos recorded in the months after the material on Kinda Kinks is peppered with great songs like Set Me Free, See My Friends, I Need You and I Go to Sleep. They demonstrate the little-observed fact that in 1965 – when The Rolling Stones were a year away from self-reliance – The Kinks only had The Beatles in front of them in the UK pop pack.