Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Kinks Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1969

A while back I said some very disparaging things about Ray Davies most recent work. He's one of my favorite songwriters, and the work he did with the Kinks in the late sixties and early seventies is vital even today. He's also managed to put out some fine solo records in recent years.

Arthur is my personal favorite. There are others that come very close, and I wouldn't argue with you if Village Green or Muswell Hillbillies topped your list. But Davies' reverence for English society and the idyllic life of leisure once afforded the gentried class, as well as his sharp eye aimed at the misery of the working class, is, for me, exemplified in Arthur. And it rocks.

Victoria is a rocking ode to the great queen's era. Drivin' is Davies at his best painting that little picture with all those tiny details of a small joy of living. Australia is a classic, with a great chorus and a jammed-out forever ending.

No one ever takes his life or beats around the bush in Australia
So if you're young and if you're healthy why not get a boat and come to Australia...
We'll surf like they do in the USA
We'll fly down to Sidney for our holiday
On sunny Christmas day, Australia

The guitar sounds that Ray and brother Dave get on this record are beautiful. She Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina is another of Davies' sharply drawn observations of the working class, and it's both funny and sad. Arthur is another driving rocker with thoughtful lyrics about the disappearance of the middle class. In between, Davies laments the horrors of war (Yes Sir, No Sir, Some Mother's Son), and longs for the better days of old (Young And Innocent Days).

The Kinks made many wonderful records, but I still come back to this one with regularity. It is available on lovingly mastered, newly reissued vinyl, too, if that's your thing.

1 comment:

  1. It's my favorite as well. Arthur could not be more relevant today... as suburbia dies and people are still brainwashed with nothing to say. Ray (and Dave) as social-political songwriters has never been discussed. The fact that the Kinks are the freshest things I have heard in most recent memory and the giant gipping they've gotten from history and the dull-minded critics lead me to think people need to do a major rethink on what was probably the best British rock n roll band ever, the Kinks. I sort of have them tied with Beatles and Zeppelin, but their stuff holds us so much better than the Beatles -- especially the Beatles' early stuff, which i think is boring and lackluster. And the lyric writing is better than Zeppelin... so hats off to the Kinks, our working-class heroes!