They were the band who gazed on Waterloo sunsets, lazed on sunny afternoons in the summer time, and shared the delightful contents of their autumn almanac with their listeners. But on no other album is their quintessentially English pop-rock more obvious than on 1968’s The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. Written after singer Ray Davies’ trip to a rural village in Devon, the album tells glorious tales of English country life, whether through the desperate longing to return to such times expressed in ‘Village Green’ (“I miss the morning dew, fresh air and Sunday school”), or the declaration of protection of all things English and rural in ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’. The latter is a perfect reminder of just how brilliant Ray Davies’ lyrics can be, with such beauties as “we are the office block persecution affinity, god save little shops, china cups and virginity” and “we are the skyscraper condemnation affiliate, god save Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards”.
There is something so comforting and familiar about the album, as indeed is the case with most Kinks music. We can all relate to the celebration of past memories in ‘Picture Book’ and ‘People Take Pictures Of Each Other’, and the idea of old friends having changed so much since we were young in ‘Do You Remember Walter?’ is an issue close to home for most of us. Not only lyrically but musically the album has a warming effect on the listener, with the jangly piano of album highlight ‘Sitting By The Riverside’ loosing you in a world of reverb and images of fishing and picnics on a summer’s day, while the truly bizarre flute and psychedelic sounds of ‘Phenomenal Cat’ create the image of a feline-based fairy tale. The dirty riffs of ‘Wicked Annabella’ and the big beats of ‘Big Sky’ are a reminder that The Kinks are rock ‘n’ roll at heart, while the fantastic ‘Animal Farm’ is typical of Ray Davies’ story-like lyrics.
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society is a songbook of wonderfully English pop music by a band who invite you into their pleasant world to tell you fifteen stories, soundtracked by the unmistakable sound of one of the best bands of the 1960s. If the album’s tracks aren’t enough for you, a 2004 reissue includes an entire extra disc of bonus tracks, many of which would have been good enough to have been released on the original album.