In a quiet period for Kinks' singles compared to 64-67, this album is something of a surprise. The Kinks compound their concept album 'The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society' with this summary of what it means to be English.
The album has a distinctive sound with drums to the fore and most songs comprise of several distinct parts with shifting rhythms. For example, there's 'Australia' which begins up-tempo and part tongue-in-cheek and ends as a slower paced jam with superb guitar soloing and a full brass section, with the final burst of wobble board seeming to indicate the completion of this journey.
Then there's 'She's bought a hat like Princess Marina'. This one begins slow and shifts gear twice, ending as a fast paced skit that sounds like Chas and Dave doing skiffle.
Behind all the fun though, this album makes some serious points, from the anti-war sentiment of 'Some Mother's Son' to 'Brainwashed', which is as true today of the British public as it was in the 60s - people may have a little more money these days but the same disatisfaction still festers. All in all, this album blows apart the ethos of materialism and leaves us with an old man assessing the worth of his life, via the happy youthful exuberance of 'Driving' to the melacholic 'Young and Innocent Days'.
The final song is 'Arthur', where the band repeatedly concludes "Arthur, we love you, and want to help you, somebody loves you, don't you know it". All in all, 'life is what it is and there's nothing we can do to change it'.
This is a truly great album for Kinks fans wanting to look a bit deeper and I would imagine that the glut of bonus tracks adds little to this already perfect symphony.