Friday, July 31, 2009

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

This is my favourite album of all time, and ranks up there with 'Pet Sounds' as one of the greatest pop albums ever. Those are mighty big claims. They come as no surprise to some people who know me well. They might be very surprising to others who also know me, given my predilection for the loud, grunty or just plain weird when it comes to music.

I was a late bloomer as far as The Kinks are concerned. It was 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society' that transformed my appreciation of The Kinks and of music in general. For this I am indebted to my friend Richard Watter. We met in Brisbane in the mid 80's through the (in)famous GSA common room at the University of Queensland. Richard not only shared a common interest in bands I liked such, as The Fall and Pere Ubu: he expanded my knowledge and appreciation of their work. He also taught me what it meant to be a true fan. No more was this true than in Melbourne, where he introduced me to the delights of The Kinks. This came through introducing me to 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society'. I have never looked back since.

I have always had a copy of this record in some shape or form. I wore out through repeated listenings - largely on the walkperson on the way to Melbourne Uni - a tape recording I made of Richard's copy. Eventually, when once again resident in Brisbane, I came to own it myself on CD. (Whenever I am testing new stereo components, out comes VGPS, along with such strange bedfellows as The Jesus Lizard and Fugazi.) My pal Martin gave me a copy on vinyl when I turned 40. It also lives on my iPod.

Like a trusted old friend, 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation' has been there in all aspects of my life - especially the bleak and melancholic moments - over the last two decades. I am always consoled and soothed when I make acquaintances with this album. There is always something new that adds weight to my love of it. My appreciation of VGPS is deepened with each listen, reaffirming my embrace of life in all its quotidian detail. This is the special genius of Ray Davies in his songwriting. It is sheer poetry.

I find that this album works, throughout its length, because of Davies' sense of optimism and longing, that taps into the natural urging for simpler times. That does not make the quest or yearning simplistic, though. It involves a very richly detailed tapestry. The songs on 'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society' are about life and love, and the things that define the bonds of attachment to the two. Melancholic? Yes. Maudlin? No. Saccharine? Never. Life affirming? Always. This album is also proof that you do not need to turn cosmic in music to connect with the fundamental themes of human existence AND change the world forever. That is the power of great pop music. It transcends the genre and lifts up the listener from where they are.

'The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation' is evidence of eternally great music. I also regard it as a quantum leap in realising the emotional power of music over the space of an album. That, in my opinion, makes it a true conceptual work, and well worth inclusion in one's music collection.


  1. That whole Sgt Pepper's, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, "Hashbury Olde Typeface" thing always seemed slightly affected to me. But it must have begun somewhere and been a real expression of something. In the case of the Kinks, I think the yearning for a past devoid of the corruptions of mid 20th century capitalism is honest. Or maybe not. Davies always pushed the boundaries of irony long before that became a part of widestream culture.

  2. "Widestream"? WTF? Sorry.

  3. Spot on, mate. I came to listen to Ogden's a few years ago. There are some nice tunes on it, but the conceptual aspect is really forced. It is an afterthought rather than a driving force behind the whole project. With Sgt Pepper's, the Beatles certainly had more technical resources (in terms of George Martin's production) to play around with. VGPS is rather raw in comparison, but that adds to its charm. Plus Davies wasn't the greatest singer in the world, but so what? It came with his expression and delivery, and wrapping it up with delicious tunes and melodies. Let's not also forget how great Dave D was as a guitarist.

    The irony issue is always there too, isn't it? It seems to have been more forced the more cynical Ray became in his life. But from 'Face To Face' and 'Something Else', to VGPS and 'Arthur', the yearning is very honest. It is worth inspecting Ray's book 'X-Ray' on this period of his life. I would also like to have a squizz at Jon Savage's bio of the Kinks, but I can't find it anywhere.