Not just a singles band,
This review is from: Arthur - Or The Decline and Fall Of The British Empire (Audio CD)
By the late sixties albums had overtaken singles as THE format. The big groups of the day; the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, had all helped initiate (or at least graduated to) this change. The albums they released in 1969; 'Abbey Road', 'Tommy' and 'Let it Bleed', are records that were bought and heard (or at least heard of) by many of their generation and generations since. As for 'Arthur'...
Many bands of the era were continuing the trend of psychedelic sounds and surreal lyrics, adding rootsy blues and crunching riffs to long guitar solos and the influence of Eastern philiosophy. In this environment it is not hard to see why the Kinks' records were slipping by unnoticed. While many of their generation were in rebellion against their parent's outlook and morality, the Kinks opted to write about them - the character 'Arthur' could easily have been a listener's parent. While other bands were looking forwards or going inwards the Kinks were looking to the past for inspiration; unable, or at least unwilling, to swim with many of the musical tides of the day.
As for the record itself...Lyrically and thematically it all holds together brilliantly as the band sing the narrative of an old war hero, his increasing disillusion towards life and at the changes his country has gone through. No accusation of pretension, sloppiness or over ambition can be levelled at the Kinks for making this record and, importantly, beyond the concept, there are also great individual songs on 'Arthur', songs in that very British pop vein that the Kinks mastered. Both this album and the equally brilliant predecessor, 'Village Green...', were perfectly realised, conceptual records that never sacrifice musicality in the name of art or 'message'.
It would be nice to think that this album, along with other Kinks releases (notably 'Village Green'), will one day achieve the popularity they deserve. This is doubtful now and probably far too late in the day. In recent years retrospective magazines have featured this area of the Kinks music, but I think it will almost always be their fate to be considered a great singles band. As good an accolade, and as true as that is, after listening to this album and the rest of the Kinks' late sixties early seventies output, you may have to agree they were also a great album band.