The Kinks, the “British Way,” and America in the 00’s

By Jason Diamond

The Kinks (from 1964 to 1972) are untouchable, and their name should always be mentioned with the same respect as The Beatles or The Stones. Of course, while I love Village Green Preservation Society just as much as any other person with a heart, my favorite album is 1969’s Arthur (Or the Decline of the British Empire). This record is the apex of Ray Davies’ masterful songwriting, his most biting critique of the “British way of life.”

How about I take it a step further, and say that Ray Davies is one of those unique English musicians whose lyrics deserve a place alongside his country’s finest writers? Can’t you just see his name in a long list that might also include Chaucer, Austen, Dickens, Orwell; and maybe a more modern name like Zadie Smith? If you give a listen to Arthur–reading the lyrics while doing so–I think you could. The record stands as one of the strongest statements on post-WWII England of any medium, and it leaves me asking one question: as the sun sets on what can be seen as presumably one of the worst decades for American culture, what will be the American Arthur?