Under pressure from fellow founding Kinks Dave Davies and Mick Avery to bring back the rock after 1975's melodramatic Soap Opera, Ray Davies maintained the theatrical whimsy of the last several albums for Schoolboys in Disgrace but rooted the year's second concept LP in nostalgic arrangements that emphasized the core quintet's energetic strengths. It was a move that paid off with one of the group's least appreciated but most coherent albums, and it paved the way for the band's commercial comeback two years later. Like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Schoolboys deals with the constraints and hypocrisy of England's educational institutions, but does so with the consistent catchiness and bittersweet glee that is Davies 'forte.
Few rock tunesmiths can navigate a wistful melody like Ray Davies, and Schooldays sets an ambivalent tone midway between longing and misgiving. The power-chord-heavy sequence of "I'm In Disgrace," "Headmaster" and "The Hard Way" harkens back to the band's initial heyday, even if the lyrics deal with murky sexual politics (did the protagonist commit rape, or was he framed?) and corporal punishment. "No More Looking Back" closes the door on the group's conceptual period, but not on the childhood memories that would fuel its biggest hit since the mid '60s, 1983's "Come Dancing."