The Kinks
Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)



by doctorjimmy USER (60 Reviews)
August 22nd, 2015 | 4 replies

Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Village Green on steroids. The Kink's rock tour-de-force. However you want to call it, you simply can't miss the Kinks at their finest.

Both Village Green and Arthur got under the commercial radars back in the late 60's. Of course, it isn't hard to see why; the Kinks never had the 'rebel' image of bands like the Stones or the Who neither the 'all you need is love' mindset of a group like the Beatles. Instead, they wrote songs about how modern life sucks and idolized old Britain; who would want to identify with these blokes, anyway" Well, lots of people as it turns out decades later. The Kinks' 'nostalgic' philosophy certainly was pivotal for the re-emergence of Brit-pop in the 90's, with bands like Blur and Oasis condemning their own decade's lifestyle.

Anyway, this record here is proof that the Kinks could actually rock; not in the primitive, early way of, say, You Really Got Me, but in a fresher, tighter, fuller kind of way. The guitars here are furious and rousing, the drumming is impeccable and professional and Ray sings with astonishing charm and playfulness every single number here. The production is truly intoxicating, despite being characterized as 'low-fi' by Ray himself in later years. And the songwriting" What about that" Well, you will meet an excellent set of melodies; catchy, inventive and utterly heartfelt.

All of these attributes give the album its unique intensity. Not every single track here is a rocker, but everything here is absolutely gripping emotion-wise, be it joy, anger, frustration or melancholy the desirable goal of each song. Thus, Brainwashed strives for the 'punkiest' mood on the whole album and succeeds. Perfectly. Dave's guitar work is heated and impassioned to the extreme; the riff he plays rises the tension to 11 (Spinal Tap pun here) thanks to the excellent assistance of the gruff rhythm guitar in the background, Avory's wild drumming and the hot sax section that envelopes the tune. Victoria, the album opener, isn't peaceful either; built around another fantastic riff, it results in a frenzied chorus with Ray singing at the top of his lungs Victoriaaa, Victoriaaa, blending successfully anger with joy and happiness. Amazing" You bet yourself it is.

You want something a bit more laid back and relaxed" Sure! Drivin' and Australia are your bets; the former melds acoustic strumming with intricate electric guitar passages, not to mention the inimitable Driiiiiving chorus, and transmits a 'breezy' feeling to the listener. The latter is more or less the same in terms of emotional approach, but Ray here is definitely more 'eager' and 'excited' in his delivery, pointing Australia as the ideal place to live in. The solo throughout is quite hallucinatory and interesting, even if somewhat overlong. She's Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina is actually the sweetest, warmest song on the record, reminding Village Green in atmosphere until the peace of the tune is interrupted by a frantic bridge. It is also very ambiguous, lyrically, as lines like She wears it when she's cleaning the windows, she wears it when she's scrubbing the stairs don't make clear Ray's intentions; is he mocking or praising the woman's actions" Hard to tell.

There also 'protest' songs here, in the form of Yes Sir, No Sir and Some Mother's Son that reach for a 'majestic', 'socially conscious' mood. You don't understand what I'm pointing at" Well, take a peek at the latter tune and tell me it isn't one of the most electrifying, moving laments about war ever; lines like Two soldiers fighting in a trench, one soldier glances up to see the sun, and dreams of games he played when he was young, combined with Ray’s passionate singing make the song all the more unforgettable. The former track now, is more ironic in terms of lyrical content and musically, the sarcasm is obvious; Avory’s marching drumming always creates visions of military in my mind. Then, the song picks up the pace, becomes more frustrated in order to suit with Ray’s increasingly biting lyrics: Doesn't matter who you are, you're there and there you are, everything Is in its place, authority must be maintained. Magnificent songs from start to finish.

Of course, the centerpiece of the album has to be Shangri-La, because it combines perfectly most of the moods tried out on the record. You want melancholy, bitterness" Give the beautiful, introspective introduction a try. Warmth and optimism" Lend an ear to the Put on your slippers section. Frustration" Listen to the chorus. Raw, punkish attitude" Rush forward to the All the houses on the street have got a name break. Joy" The Shangri-la la, la, la, la is waiting for you. Irony and sarcasm" Well, the whole song is drenched in irony and sarcasm; read the lyrics and you’ll understand. And finally, the combination of all these different moods results in the song being an epic, majestic foray into Ray’s lyrical world, with few songs in the band’s catalog that can claim to be equal to this chef d'oeuvre.

Now, what songs did I leave out" Hmm. Young And Innocent Days continues the Village Green vibe of Marina, but it is tons more plaintive and sad. You don’t need to listen further than the moving acoustic guitar interplay and Ray’s restrained performance to be convinced, indeed. Nothing To Say, on the other hand, owes more to songs like Australia and Drivin’, what with this ‘easy going’ essence permeating the song. Finally, the album closer is the title track itself, boasting a terrific guitar line and a catchy melody to go along with it, closing the record on a more ‘lightweight’ note. It is a tad overlong, though, but it only spoils the fun by a little, tiny bit.

All in all, this is as phenomenal an album as they come. Despite having a couple somewhat overlong tunes, the flow isn’t interfered at all; the album closer will land on your ears before you even know it. In fact, while most people don’t realize it, it is equal to Village Green in every possible way; if that album was the definite ‘brit-pop’ statement, then this is the best ‘Kinks-rock’ release ever. The albums are really two sides of the same coin, and easily two of the greatest albums of all time. Amen to that.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
August 22nd 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

Hello there Mr Unstoppable.The seventh paragraph is a bit rushed but overall this is a good review.

Digging: Tangerine Dream - Phaedra

August 22nd 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks a lot ;)

August 22nd 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

Kinks at their finest

September 13th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

The Kinks on acid

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