Review #384: The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, The Kinks

Karla Clifton
3 min readMay 8, 2023

#384: The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, The Kinks

Rolling Stone’s assessment of this record? “Nobody bought it.” Lol.

It’s a little mean, but it’s not inaccurate — this was the Kinks’ first record that didn’t chart in either the US or the UK. Maybe that’s because while other Brit bands were trying psychedelia on for size (Rubber Soul and Aftermath had been released just a few years prior), the Kinks were harkening back to better days.

This was all frontman Ray Davies’ brainchild, coming on the heels of his “pressure-induced breakdown” in 1966. And he had a strong sense of what he wanted to accomplish. In fact, this is the first record Davies produced all by his lonesome. Inspired by Dylan Thomas’ radio play Under Milk Wood, Davies decided to write a collection of extremely British character studies. I love the quote about his national pride: “I hope England doesn’t change. … I hope we don’t get swallowed up by America and Europe. I’m really proud of being British. … I want to keep writing very English songs.”

Davies wanted the record to be more cohesive than some of their earlier works, but unfortunately, this cohesiveness did not extend to their group dynamic. There was a lot of infighting due to Davies’ secretiveness and desire for complete control. He was so exacting about what songs “belonged” on this record and which didn’t that they recorded an entire album worth of songs for an album that was never released, called Four More Respected Gentlemen. This tension is part of the reason that this was the group’s final album with bassist Pete Quaife, who said, “The band was fighting all the time and I was getting sick of it. … I just couldn’t take the constant brawling amongst everybody any more.”

Honestly it’s kind of funny that this album caused so much strife, because it’s downright pleasant. Just a nice, upbeat collection of songs. They bless Donald Duck and Sherlock Holmes in “The Village Green Preservation Society,” and lament the degradation of Brit culture in “Village Green” with no bitterness to speak of. No room for rage in the Preservation Society! Instead, he reminisces on simpler times (“Sitting By the Riverside”) when he lived on an “Animal Farm.” (No Orwellian themes in that one, sorry.) It seems that the only thing that can raise his heart rate is the simple machinery of days’ past. (See the locomotive “Last of the Steam-Powered Trains.”)

When he’s not wishing he was a child again, Davies is curating a photo gallery. The first portrait is “Do You Remember Walter?,” a rather judgmental meditation on a childhood friend that has chosen a different life path. (Walter has apparently gotten fat and goes to bed early, which seems like absolutely none of Davies’ business.) “Johnny Thunder” is about a cool motorcyclist, and “Monica” is a calypso jaunt about a prostitute. Then there are the two fairy-tale-like highlights: “Phenomenal Cat,” about a magic fat cat that can I guess travel through space and time, and “Wicked Annabella,” the grimiest track, about a literal witch living in a forest. Now those are two people I want to hang out with.

Davies isn’t just navel-gazing and making up fairy tales. He writes about fame — see “Starstruck” and the humiliation anthem “All of My Friends Were There” — the absurdity of human existence. About a God who’s too massive to possibly care about pitiable, tiny human beings (“Big Sky”) and about how absurd it is that those same humans feel the need to constantly snap pictures of themselves just to prove they existed (“Picture Book” and “People Take Pictures of Each Other”). That last one is especially relevant in the Instagram Age. You won’t find any pictures of Karla Clifton online — I know I exist.

Ultimately, this is a sonically eclectic collection of songs based around one overarching philosophy: Change is scary. No one may have bought it, but Ray Davies is called the Godfather of Britpop for a reason. It reminded me a lot of Blur’s Parklife. So rule Britannia and all that.

Oh yeah, and happy Coronation Day. See? Some things never change.

Review #383: Mezzanine, Massive Attack

Review #385: Rocket to Russia, Ramones