As I’ve been saying, part of my failure to fully appreciate The Kinks in my 20s was an allergy to concept albums generally. Because they tended to involve a lot of songs that only made sense within the context of the album, they just weren’t something I explored a lot. So, while there were many opportunities back in my vinyl bin-digging days to picked up a copy of “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society,” I never did.
In the intervening years, beyond the title track, I became familiar with “Do You Remember Walter?” and “Picture Book,” but not the album itself. Again, I’m playing catch-up and my favorite record pusher at Forever Changes has particular insights into my gaps. So last year at one of the last pop-ups before the pandemic, I had to relieve his bins of this beautiful ABKCO reissue and, again, I have no regrets. I’ve really come to appreciate the quirky perfection of Ray Davies’ songwriting even more through the years, and to go back and hear the breadth he was able to achieve in 1968 (when he was all of 24!) is quite remarkable.
So yes, this is a very odd piece for 1968. Not if you think of it in terms of the adventurousness of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from the year before, instance, but in its embrace of a broad, theatrical, music-hall style of songs, not only holding onto but doubling down on that English tradition that rock ‘n’ roll had pushed out of favor (but which still snuck in here and there as groups like Cream would put little skiffle novelties on their albums). And in fact the late ’60s music had an odd embrace of the old-timey sound, but always with a bit of a wink. There’s no wink here: this is what they’re doing. This is on purpose. And tremendously effective. What a fine set of songs!