Upbeat, nostalgic and full of thematic imagery, the 1968 rock album, “The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society,” by The Kinks, their last with bassist, Pete Quaife, has proven itself not only underrated and catchy but highly influential in the Rock and Roll genre.
The first song on the album, “Village Green,” proved the catalyst for the albums creation. “Village Green,” was written during lead vocalist Ray Davies’ stay in the rural English town of Devon and was later combined with other songs written by Davies that incidentally stayed within the same aesthetic.
The album did, for the most part, lack the complexity required to create a masterpiece, rather than make it inferior to its piers however, this merely changes its intrinsic design. If Mozart was a fine, single-malt scotch, sophisticated and complex, then the Kinks are a good, cold beer. Smooth and without need for depth, expert and novice alike can find appreciation for and versatility in the band with the knowledge that their examination can be limited to the immediate reaction of their taste and senses.
Despite its low sales and occasional snide critique, the album did become The Kinks’ best-selling original record and has gained a large cult following. The album was one of the first to introduce overt utilisation of bass lines within the album, many with a high-crunch distortion, but some clean and even acoustic. The melodies and the rhythm are easy to follow and hard not to enjoy, they evoke an image of rustic country cottages overlooking lush gardens filled with brown-suited men, white dressed women and the pleasant knell of a small town bell tower in the distance.
The songs all start on a high note and carry on non-stop as is generally the case with Davies’ songs. There is no build up or complexity as far as the actual musical composition. The songs all go from beginning to end without change of pace and most of them are without a bridge or hook, which changes the quality from a compositional standpoint and perhaps slightly degrades the artistic capacity of each song, but leaves catchy songs and an interesting, unusual genre to be enjoyed on a more superficial level.
Many songs definitely have a Beatle-esque sound to them but it is not quite fair to say that they are a “poor copy,” any more than “Badfinger,” “The Monkees,” or any number or other pop bands. The third song on the album, “Picture book,” was later exactly replicated in “Warning,” by Green Day, which seems to further refute the “Beatles imitation,” claim as no one has ever referred to Green Day as a “vicarious Beatles imitation group.”
The songs are versatile in nature, despite those factors which give them commonality. The first song is a folk rock style; melodic and smooth. While most of the rest carry on in the Kinks’ defining, choppy, electric sound as is heard in their hits, “You’ve Really Got Me,” and “All Day and All of the Night,” as well as others.
Perhaps the best argument for the inartistic style of the album, and the reason that it earned the distinction of being number 255 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” is that Rock and Roll does not need to follow classical standards for music.
Rock and Roll was meant to challenge that which existed socially, not to assimilate its rules or standards. That which is definitively without common rules cannot be gauged on a standard rule-scale, just as “Howl,” is incomparable to “The Illiad.”
This album represents keeping elements of the old and integrating them into the new, rather than prefer either one over the other. Their combination of folk-sound with pre-punk electric guitar and heavy, high-drive riffs is not true to any genre; it does not follow any pre-existing patterns and it does not conform to any normative style. The songs are composed of basic but original melodies which are catchy but not senseless. The lyrics are simple, but perfect for conveyance of the message that the band is trying to send out.
The first song, “The Village Green,” easily sums up the theme of the album and no line better than the fourth and third to last, “Preserving the old ways from being abused Protecting the new ways for me and for you.”