1001 Albums: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

#110

Album_110_Original

Artist: The Kinks

Album: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

Year: 1968

Length: 38:59

Genre: Rock

“We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties

Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways, for me and for you
What more can we do?”

I am back! Not in terms of this blog, because let’s be honest I’ll constantly be taking breaks and slowing down. But in terms of my mood and just all around being me as a person, I finally feel like I’m back to normal. I’ve been getting amazing sleep. I wake up early naturally. I feel energised the entire day with no need for naps. I’m actually in a good mood. I feel like I’m myself again, my motivation has returned and I find myself actually being productive (or at least somewhat). Thins are turning around and I feel great.

On top of that I got to enjoy what I feel is currently my favourite Kinks album. I think I’m finally sold on them and this was the album that sealed the deal for me. I was somewhat hesitant at first but now I think I absolutely love The Kinks. There’s something about their music that both feels incredibly nostalgic but fresh at the same time. Like they’re working with formulas but somehow using them in an original way. It’s a strange sentiment to feel, but a great one nonetheless and I really hope this isn’t it for the Kinks catalogue (but it might be sadly). Shame, I was really hoping for more.

Something The Kinks do very well is capture an image of old school England. That sense of nostalgia doesn’t just come through their music but their imagery as well as they capture a slice of life within the community. Here they do it their best as they paint a picture within the confines of the idea of the “Village Green” which according to the writers is a sort of safe haven away from all the artifice and bullshit of the city life and real world. A place where things are simpler and easier with nothing fake happening, just a genuine world within a plastic one. As someone who is a strong believer in honesty, this idea really feels like a breath of fresh air.

As a concept album it works very well, creating these little vignettes to fully create this world they’re taking you through. Oddly enough, despite being unanimously critically acclaimed, it sold very poorly, which sadly seems to be a regular thing for The Kinks. Once again, it’s one of those a;bums that only started to get noticed way past it’s release and would be rediscovered years later. The Kinks seem to have a weird relationship with this sort of thing and apparently their feelings of exclusion from the US was in part what had them create this album. Here’s an interesting snippet I found that I would like to share:

“Davies, who had suffered mental exhaustion himself, isolated and conscious of “the hole I was in” – to either be a hit machine or not to exist, sings; “This world is big and wild and half insane… It’s a hard, hard world if it gets you down – Dreams often fade and die in a bad, bad world” with “Everybody pushing one another around… all the people who think they got problems.. don’t let it get you down”. He advises one friend (“Starstruck“); “you’re a victim of bright city lights and your mind is not right…. running around like you’re crazy… out on your feet – It’s gonna drive you insane because the world’s not so tame”.

The writer admits; “I sought fame, and so I left the village green.” But he has somewhere to return to; “I’ll take you where real animals are playing, and people are real people not just playing. It’s a quiet, quiet life”. The village green offers a place to be natural, a place of solitude, while the “city” offers only artifice, haste, competition and the dangers of the Cold War. The animal farm, Ray Davies said, “was just me thinking everybody else is mad and we are all animals anyway – which is really the idea of the whole album.””

It really puts the album into a new perspective getting an introspective look at the writer’s mindset when creating the album and it really added a lot, for me at least. And obviously who can say what they’re doing better than the writer themselves. I really get a sense that he was just plain fed up of the world and he vented all his frustrations into this album. The energy he put into it really shows and it’s easily their best album (at least of the ones I’ve heard on this list). It’s nice to see The Kinks finally fall into place and having seen their progression and growth, this is probably the peak of their career, which is a shame because getting the chance to watch them grow beyond this would have been quite a spectacle to witness.

What else can I really say about this album without going into a song play by play (which I will not do). It’s essentially just the masterwork of a band that has been building up to this sort of climax for awhile. They finally achieved it and can finally sit back and know that they’ve managed to create something that remains both timeless and old, a difficult feat to achieve. In days like today where technology is moving fast and everything is becoming more and more artificial, it’s good to have moments like this where we can hold on to older and more slow-paced days. The idea of the Village Green is definitely an idealistic one but one we should all go to every now and then to remind ourselves that it’s ok to slow down every once in awhile.

Also getting some peace of mind isn’t bad either.

Song of Choice: Picture Book

-Bosco

p.s Funnily enough, all this talk about the world being artificial and I was listening to Kraftwerk’s “The Man Machine” while writing this. Pure coincidence, did not do that on purpose.

 

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1001 Albums: Something Else by The Kinks

#97

Album_97_Original

Artist: The Kinks

Album: Something Else by The Kinks

Year: 1967

Length: 36:17

Genre: Rock / Baroque Pop

“I am a dull and simple lad
Cannot tell water from champagne
And I have never met the Queen
And I wish I could have all that he has got
And I wish I could be like David Watts”

The Kinks are back! Should I be this excited? No, not really, I’m actually not. I thought it’d just be a great way to start the post… with energy and stuff… you know? I honestly couldn’t even remember how many Kinks albums I actually listened to on this list. I checked… it was only one… I seriously thought it was two or three… don’t know why. It’s possible all these albums are starting to blend together into one big mashed potatoes of music and I’m having trouble distinguishing between them (despite most albums have their own unique sounds). It could be because of my really long hiatus from listening to the albums that I figured I listened to Face to Face months ago, I surely had listened to more than one Kinks album… right? RIGHT?

Either way, that’s unimportant. Point is The Kinks are back and are for the most part really fun and enjoyable. It honestly didn’t feel like much of a step forward from their last album and felt more like an extension of it with a continuation of their tongue in cheek observations of English life. Each song feels like a portrait of a character or situation that you’d typically find in their daily lives but what makes it more than straight forward is the satirical take on them with a dash of cynicism and wit. I had a ton of fun listening to this album, heck I saved most of the songs on my Spotify playlist, which I hadn’t expected at all.

This feels like it’s  hidden gem of a Kinks album. I mean, I don’t know if it actually is or not since I haven’t listened to any other Kinks albums and I’m basically talking out of my ass right now but I feel like it is mainly based on the fact that this album apparently didn’t sell well at all… anywhere upon it’s release. Due to it competing with cheaper Kinks compilation albums mostly, people just didn’t seem interested in picking up this album for whatever reason (the reason I mentioned above). Kind of odd seeing how fun the album is. It really has a sentimental and nostalgic vibe to it that feels like a snapshot of 60s England that never feels dated either. It feels like this album despite sounding old has aged very well and still works even today, as if it was a stylistic choice to be the way it is… I don’t know, I’m not The Kinks. I especially love their use of harpsichord, but I think I’ve always been a sucker for it. It gives this sort of medieval sound to it that I always enjoyed, I really hope there’s more harpsichord in future albums (not just The Kinks) because I really do feel there just isn’t enough harpsichord in general in this world.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE HARPSICHORD!

…Please…

Song of Choice: Death of a Clown

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Face to Face

#66

Album_66_Original

Artist: The Kinks

Album: Face to Face

Year: 1966

Length: 38:32

Genre: Rock Pop

“Rock ‘n’ roll or vocal star
A philharmonic orchestra,
Everything comes the same to him.
He is a session man,
A chord progression,
A top musician.”

I’m tired. Not in a bad way. I’m just really tired. Normal, everyday tired. Not enough sleep and an early morning and you have one tired individual who’s wondering how he’ll make it though his incredibly long day ahead of him. When you have class non-stop from 9 am to 6 pm plus errands to run involving getting a new student ID for a bus pass that’s at a specific subway station fr away and are moving to a new apartment soon but the details haven’t been fleshed out yet and it’s the beginning of the month tomorrow and you also have the crushing weight of life and money (especially since I don’t have a job yet) pushing down on your shoulders, it makes for a tiring day. Ok, so maybe there’s more at play than just being tired but… shush, I’m just going to feel tired and leave it at that.

I’m probably going to keep this brief, mainly because I’m writing this while we watch King Kong in class, but also because I don’t really have much to say about this album. When I saw The Kinks were next on the list a part of me was happy. The little I’ve heard of them I’ve really enjoyed, they had a raunchy sound to them and almost had a bit of a hard rock feel (for the 60s). This was not what I was hoping for. I really shouldn’t jump into these albums with expectations any more. I mean, it’s difficult when it’s a band that has a reputation for being a certain way or just one that is hugely popular in general. Hard to shake that off when you already have a preconceived notion of what a certain band is supposed to be like.

So to my surprise this wasn’t The Kinks I knew but a different era of Kinks when they gave up their raunchy sound and instead changed to a more pop-oriented sound (I feel a lot of these albums are only on this list because it represented a band’s change in musical style (Like The Beach Boy’s Today! for example)). Of course I didn’t know this going into it and felt like I was listening to an early era Beatles rip-off rather than The Kinks. I guess The Beatles had gone on to a new sound so someone had to fill the void that was their old sound. The Kinks jumped into it at the right moment.

About five songs in I stopped myself. I stopped the album and stopped listening for a bit. This wasn’t fair for The Kinks. Based on some unnecessary judgement I seemed to have already made an opinion of the album before I even listened to it. One song in shouldn’t have set how I felt about it immediately (Although arguably the first song on the album is supposed to set the mood of the entire album and is incredibly important, but in this particular case it was based on my expectations rather than what it was). I took a few hours to rethink it and decided to give the album a second chance with an open-mind.

As much as the opening song still feels like an early era Beatles ripoff, the rest of the album is actually not that bad (and I’ll even admit the opening song is actually kind of fun). As it progresses you really hear The Kinks falling into their own pop sound and it’s an interesting evolution to listen to as it slowly progresses from song to song. What I particularly liked was the muffled effects on the vocals and the keyboard sound that gave the feel of a twangy medieval sound (which I always enjoyed myself). These were nice little touches that really gave them their own feel and kind of set them apart from just a typical Pop Rock sound.

I read somewhere that this was one of Rock’s first concept albums and even though we’ve already seen a few, this one feels like the least… concepty compared to previous ones we’ve heard (Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours comes to mind). I mean, I’ll trust the critics when they say it’s a concept album but… I had a hard time deciphering what the concept was exactly. At first it almost sounded like it was going to be a lens into youth culture. Giving us an image of each faction, from partying, staying out late, sleeping around and worrying parents. But by the fifth song it confused me since it felt like it didn’t relate to the ideas of the first and as it progressed it lost me even more. Maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough and it really all did relate to commentary on youth culture, but I find it hard to believe that a song like Session Man or Sunny Afternoon has anything to do with the youth. I tried to figure it out and the best I could find is that the concept was Observations. Yeah… observations on… I guess society at the time, which I can stand by and seems to fit the mold of the album perfectly. But… observations is a really vague concept to the point that can we really consider it a concept? It’s almost like saying an album is a concept album with the theme of storytelling because every song tells a story, in that case almost every album is a concept album. I’m not denying or saying this wasn’t in fact a concept album, I’m just questioning it. With a concept that vague it’s hard to really go against.

So who knows, maybe circa 1966 the idea of even a remotely vague thread throughout was considered a concept and in that respect I’ll go “Sure, I see it”. As a whole the album is pretty solid and The Kinks show off some decent songwriting that is relatively accessible for any listener to enjoy. It apparently didn’t sell very well when it first came out and actually went out of print for awhile, which is a shame, really.

I’m glad I decided to give it a second chance because overall I did enjoy it. Not my favourite and I felt it loses steam by the three quarter mark, but there’s some great tunes on here that is enough to keep you listening.

Song of Choice: Dandy

-Bosco