10 October 2013

10th October - The Kinks' Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

Artist – Album: The Kinks – Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
Released: 10th October 1969
Sounds Like: Lie back and think of England

If the Kinks hadn’t turned out The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society a year earlier, Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) would be the greatest concept album about simply being English ever. As it is, where Village Green celebrated with whimsy and nostalgia the best of British, Arthur reminds us that it’s not all peaches and cream, that Queen Victoria’s colonial empire and the world wars weren’t great, and that the monotony of life in a two-up, two-down in the suburbs can be a bit of a drag.
Not that Arthur is a depressing listen – lord no – as the accompanying music plays out with the affable charm of those brave, stupid soldiers in ‘Yes Sir, No Sir’: ignorant of, or blissfully ignoring, their likely grim fate. Aside from the powerful early jabs at war – ‘Yes Sir, No Sir’, and especially ‘Some Mother’s Son’ – it’s a fun record. ‘Victoria’ is a catchy pop rock song which brought the Kinks back to the charts after a dry spell, whilst ‘Drivin’’ is lazy and summery, reminiscent of ‘Sunny Afternoon’. The shapeshifting ‘Shangri-La’ is a tour de force, changing tempo and depth with astounding regularity, without ever sounding pretentious or showy.

Even 45 years ago, the Kinks seemed backwards-looking – as they say in the title track to Village Green: “We are the skyscraper condemnation affiliate, God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards” – but their depictions of a bygone era, dealt with a wry smile and great lucidity by the genius that is Ray Davies, are well worth preservation.

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Victoria – 3:40
2.       Yes Sir, No Sir – 3:46
3.       Some Mother’s Son – 3:25
4.       Drivin’ – 3:21
5.       Brainwashed – 2:34
6.       Australia – 6:46
7.       Shangri-La – 5:20
8.       Mr. Churchill Says – 4:42
9.       She’s Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina – 3:07
10.   Young and Innocent Days – 3:21
11.   Nothing to Say – 3:08
12.   Arthur – 5:27

Listen to ‘Shangri-La’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08aNFX1Rx8I

Also released on 10th October:
1969: Frank Zappa – Hot Rats
Also released on 10th October:
1994: Suede – Dog Man Star

Also released on 10th October:
2007: Radiohead – In Rainbows

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