For a band mostly remembered for their novelty songs, and for not being quite as good and influential as their contemporaries, the Kinks were remarkably prolific and consistent from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. Managing to escape from early hits like “You Really Got Me” and “Sunny Afternoon”, songs like “Waterloo Sunset” showed a true depth and artistic clout. By the time The Village Green Preservation Society came out in 1968, the band had hit its stride. That album would prove to be a blueprint for its immediate successors. Singer-songwriter Ray Davies’ pet themes were brought to the fore in a concept album for the first time. These themes can largely be classified as “nostalgic”, although “naively conservative” might be a more accurate label for his creative persona in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
As the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, many of the big British bands were going through changes in style, sound and content. The Rolling Stones had given up psychedelics and resigned to giving new grit and muscle to their earlier R&B sound (1969’s Let it Bleed, 1971’s Sticky Fingers), The Who released a hard-rocking live album (1970) and took rock to new ballsy heights on Who’s Next (1971), and Led Zeppelin set off to rule the 1970s through a series of eponymous albums. The Beatles might have disbanded in the face of the new decade, but their slightly younger peers were keen to keep breaking new ground. The Kinks were no different. In 1969, they released Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), a more ambitious retread of The Village Green, followed by the flawed but more passionate Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One (1970) and finally Muswell Hillbillies (1971), an understated, less pretentious effort (and certainly less pretentiously-titled) that marries the themes of Arthur and the tone and soul of Lola.
[Work in progess...]