Arthur-THE Great Lost Kinks Album?

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Since it was first released in 1969, ‘Arthur or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire’ has inexplicably fallen off of the critical map. Just as the bands 1968 album ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ disappeared quickly but blossomed as the years rolled by, so ‘Arthur’ has only shriveled and died on the vine. This is both peculiar and unjust…

Originally conceived in early 1969 as a Granada TV play about a family relation of the Davies brothers, the initial idea may have been unceremoniously kicked into touch but what has remained is a very British album packed full of classy Kinks material. In parts scathing and angry (and threaded together by Ray Davies railing against antiquated Victorian values), ‘Some Mothers Son’ preempts Roger Waters’ anger at the old boys establishment blindly sending men to their death in the name of patriotism. ‘Australia’ details the UK’s late sixties exodus in search of new beginnings in sunnier climes whilst ‘Young and Innocent Days’ looks back sadly at a rapidly changing world-a theme Ray Davies has returned to on many occasions in his esteemed career.

Some weighty issues are tackled on ‘Arthur’, but delivered with a refreshing lack of pop star preaching from his country idyll. Each song is equally flecked with Ray Davies barbed wit delivering angst and trademark dreamy summer pop (see ‘Drivin’ and the epic ‘Shangri La’) in equal measures. A younger Damon Albarn must have been listening very closely to ‘Brainwashed’, for Blur’s ‘Pop Scene’ would surely never have been born without it.

Some of the themes from the previous years ‘Village Green’ are revisited on ‘Arthur’, but this time round they feel world-weary and battered. The jaunty ‘Victoria’ (later covered by The Fall-always the sign of a good song!) is probably the best known track on ‘Arthur’ and a decent calling card for what is the most underrated album in the bands extensive catalogue. Make no mistake, this is the sound of a group operating at the peak of their powers even if the world had chosen to stop listening.

But now it’s time for all that to change, right? Go on, give it a spin! You won’t be disappointed.

5/5 in anyone pop aficionados book…

7 thoughts on “Arthur-THE Great Lost Kinks Album?

  1. I am a life long kinks fan from the beginning in 64….I bought this while in the navy in san diego….as a whole the theme is great, but to me it just doesnt sit well with me, sure there are some great songs here….give me VGPS and Kinks Kontrovesy, or State of Confusion….Schoolboys, Soap Opera…Low Budget, the list goes on. GSTK

  2. ‘Arthur’ has always been my favorite Kinks album – it’s pretty sophisticated musically, more than any other Kinks album (in my opinion). It’s too bad the TV play that Ray envisioned never happened, but the album stands on its own.

  3. Great review, Simon. I’ve just been discovering all the Kinks output 1964-1971 and Arthur is a truly great album (better than Village Green i think). Imagine my surprise when I got to Brainwashed! OMG Popscene or what?!? as you said!
    I wonder if thats ever been a thing – he must’ve met Ray Davies during those days of Britpop!
    Thanks for the review!
    Nick
    Belfast

    1. ….i recall Damon Albarn namechecking Ray Davies/Kinks in the early run up to Britpop (91/2?). At that time i only knew the singles and couldnt really see the link BUT years later (and well after BP had deserted our shores) I found that briiiant later 60’s early 70’s seam of Kinks magic! And the same goes forthe Beach Boys 67-72 period-most of their best work was done after ‘Pet Sounds’ ( in my humble view!).
      So come on Nick, lets have your top ten albums of all time! I’ll trade you mine…although I’ll have to get back to you as I’m supposed to be working right now!
      All the best, Simon

      1. Sorry Simon – I’ve just seen this! Top 10 of all time?! That’s nearly impossible – and totally dependent on my mood but I’ll give it a shot – in no particular order. I guess these would have to be bedrock that I can almost ALWAYS go back to. But I’m currently on a German 70s music kick (reading the Kraftwerk biography http://amzn.eu/eiJFbao) so this list would be filled with Kraftwerk, Can and Amon Duul II… lol

        The Who – Who’s Next
        Massive Attack – Blue Lines
        David Bowie – Hunky Dory
        Beta Band – 3 EPs

        Those first four came easy – but SO obvious?!

        REM – Lifes Rich Pagent
        John Martyn – Solid Air
        Miles Davis – In A Silent Way
        The Doors – LA Woman
        Fleetwood Mac – Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac
        The Police – Regatta De Blanc vs Talk Talk – Colour Of Spring

        But I could also add any of Iron Maidens first 7 albums, any number of Bowie albums inclusing the astonishing Blackstar, a sprinkling of Tom Waits and a recent utter love the first three Black Keys albums.

        How about favourite lesser known albums?! Spiers and Boden – Vagabond… theres more

        1. Great stuff here Nick, hopefully Colour of Spring over Regatta although I recall how great The Police seemed at the time…punk for those slightly too young for 76/77!

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