Reviewed by Courtney Fitzgerald, Fri., Dec. 17, 2004
The KinksAre the Village Green Preservation Society (Sanctuary)
When the rest of rock & roll had sympathy for the devil, the Kinks were asking God to save "china cups and virginity." In 1968, Electric Ladyland and Beggars Banquet amped toward burning guitars and Altamont, but Ray Davies turned away from the power chords of "You Really Got Me" and produced a flop, making the deliberately noncommercial Village Green Preservation Society. Writing Village Green during his four-year ban from America, Davies contradicted the literal British invasion by paying anthemic homage to "the last of the good old fashion steam-powered trains," Davies' own anti-Industrial Revolution coming in wryly scattered memories of "Big Sky" nature and unforgotten friendship ("Do You Remember Walter?"). His songwriting is "Sherlock Holmes English-speaking vernacular" British humour and peculiarity unguided by any American laugh track. At a time when it's in style to be out of fashion, Sanctuary Records has reissued what's now considered the Kinks' definitive project via a 3-CD package, including the original mono 15-track release, a stereo mix of it, and many outtakes that did not make the original cut, like "Days" and "Lavender Hill." This hefty set mainly for the Kinks collector arrives just in time for the popular Kinks renaissance, when even Green Day's new album alludes to Davies and director Wes Anderson promises another revival of the vivid quirk and comic-book fantastic that makes Village Green so definitively Kinky. Village Green is an allegorical tale of cartoonish nostalgia, resembling the picturesque spirit of Harry Nilsson's The Point. It's a musical "Picture Book" of an imaginary "Animal Farm," a yesterday looking prettier through green-colored glasses. No one wrote songs like Ray Davies. His characteristic irony the coupling of lyrics about loss with chirpy playground music is something modern-day bands like Belle & Sebastian can only attempt. "What more can we do?" Be your own Kinks Preservation Society. "Flock to tour the Village Green." It's a pretty scene.