I’m listening to the Kinks Kronikles, a double album I bought when it came out. It was a curated sample of some hits, some b-sides, and some rarities, which John Mendelson compiled. For me it defines the ur Kinks, the Kinks I grew up with. Here’s a link to the album:
Victoria is a gorgeous pop song about the days of Queen Victoria, a paean to old values, namely colonial conquest, set in a jazzy orchestrated brilliantly complex and simple rock setting. Whew.
Village Green Preservation Society mixes satire and house frocks, with rock drums, to somehow describe a shambling beautiful world where NIMBY and progressivism meet. God Save Donald Duck and Strawberry Jam.
I’m writing about this because I’ve been listening to this album pretty repetitively the last few weeks. It’s a compilation album, a compilation by a rock writer, but like the Rolling Stones’ Between the Buttons, it captures the many facets of the band in some ways better than their regular elpees.
Berkeley Mews is a barroom stomp of classes clashing, and a favorite song of mine.
Holiday in Waikiki is an odd song, a Chuck Berry riff, about getting scammed on vacation. The vibe is surprisingly similar to the Sex Pistols’ Holiday In The Sun. In other words, catchy as hell.
Willesden Green is a country lope about going back to Willesden, a nostalgic bit of cowboy rock, apparently satirically talking about live in Willesden as a utopia of a sort. This is Zadie Smith territory. Her excellent and highly recommended books White Teeth and NW are set in Willesden.
This is Where I Belong is another rocker, a plaintive and truthful cry of the heart, which says, I have no ambitions to get out of town. Which is exactly the opposite of most every rock song. An anthem for slackers, long before there were slackers.
Waterloo Sunset is a pop song about, well, looking out the window and being totally happy because of the sunset. But the point isn’t the point of the song. This is a lovely ode, set in a rock tempo, to taking solace from the sunset. It’s really beautiful about just how freaking nice a good sunset is.
David Watts is a strict tempo song about a regular guy, who wishes he could be strong and smart like some guy named David Watts. The twist is the David Watts won’t go out with all the local girls who fancy him, but Davies ends by saying he still wishes he could be like David Watts. The Jam covered this song, a perfect match.
Dead End Street has that ballroom gait, and a tale out of La Boheme. But the way the chorus responds to the cold depravity of the narrator’s story, is rebellious and rocking. Like much of Kink Kronickles, the orchestration is complex, while the rhythms are solid (if variable). I would call this a great song, but so were almost all the songs before.
Shangri La has Ray limning the same themes of privilege versus doing your job, with a guitar and some other instruments. Plus harmonies. Simple becomes something else in a hurry, but the fact is that Ray is writing songs about stuff no one else is writing pop songs about. This is great, stomping orchestral rock by the time it is through. Well done.
There is a coda about water rates and contradictions and other stuff. Which rocks and reassures and reminds us all about the crap of classes and dreams. Plus rolling trap drums, make this all urgent and powerful and enduring.
There is a whole lot more great music from the Kinks on this album, which for some reason better describes them than any of their individual elpees. Hell, we didn’t even get to Lola. But it’s here.
I should post notes on the rest of this fantastic album soon.