The Kinks hit the scene in 1964 with You Really Got Me, and for two years they continued to mine that hard rock sound with All Day And All Of The Night, Tired Of Waiting For You, and Till The End Of The Day. The three LPs from this early period are typical of the era, with singles and covers and album filler. They're good, but they are a different band than the one that essentially debuted on Face To Face.
By 1966, the singles A Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, and Sunny Afternoon were introducing a new Kinks, the product of Ray's suspicious examination of UK society and the class system that fascinated him and inspired the detailed vignettes that would become the hallmark of his unique talent.
And so when Face To Face was released, it confused the band's fan base, and sold less than any of their previous efforts. It is the place to begin an examination of this band's golden era.
The album opens with the rollicking pop-rock of Party Line, an early take on Davies' paranoia, which will surface repeatedly in later work. Dandy is another Dedicated Follower Of Fashion in cabaret swing mode. Too Much On My Mind is Ray's wish for simplicity and Session Man is an ode to the fifth Kink, Nicky Hopkins. Rocker House In The Country ends side one on a strong note, with a fine Dave Davies lead guitar break and Ray's lyrical bashing of middle class ennui.
Davies' disillusioned trip to the beach, Holiday In Waikiki is hilarious and sad. Fancy features a drone-like, almost Indian sound that predates similar work by The Beatles. Little Miss Queen Of Darkness features an unusual acoustic guitar and drums middle section and a country-cabaret sound that Davies will return to on Muswell Hillbillies in a few years. The slinky, bluesy rocker of You're Lookin' Fine sounds like early Stones (or early Kinks). The classic, melancholic Sunny Afternoon is just one of Davies' finest moments, all wrapped up in sadness and irony, and yet evoking the pleasure of leisure at the same time.
This is the beginning of the Kink's exploration of all thing English that will peak in 1968 and 1969 with The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire). It is also the beginning of an impressive run of songwriting by Ray Davies. Everything was exploding in rock in the mid sixties, and young bands were finding a more mature voice. Nobody wrote smarter lyrics than Davies, or hung them on better songs.