The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    We all appreciate Mark’s tireless efforts to see this thread through to the end, but I think you’re
    losing your perspective.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  2. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Shangrila: Since I am coming in at the tail end of a lot of very thoughtful and incisive comments on this song, I don’t want to repeat what others have already said. Instead, I will mainly focus on my first impressions (since this was a new song for me - despite its somewhat legendary status amongst kinks aficionados) and how my impressions have evolved over the past five or six weeks of hearing this song.

    Initially, upon my first few listens, I was surprised it appeared to be so well-known and regarded by kinks fans as it seemed like a somewhat long and busy mess. In retrospect, this first impression was formed from listening to it with only half an ear.

    Once I sat down and really focused from beginning to end though, using a pair of headphones, in the dark, I tapped into the slow build of the music and realized what you have here is a mini Stairway to Heaven style epic. As I mentioned in my comments on Australia, I’m typically a big fan of slow build epics. My take on this song now is that it has that perfect gradual lead up to that wonderful, aggressive, fast paced section towards the end and then a gentle drop off again as you ease out of the song. Once I saw how it worked, it quickly became a classic in my mind.

    I guess, as others have mentioned, it might have been a little bit ahead of its time and thus was ignored by the public. I suspect just a few years later, it would’ve competed for attention with a song like Stairway to Heaven (although the quaint focus on the British aspects of a mundane life might’ve been less relatable to the general public and still held it back from obtaining mass popularity where a song like Stairway to Heaven was a little more general in its message and therefore easy to understand).

    Not my favorite song on the album (that remains Victoria), but I would say very arguably the best song on the album.
  3. lothianlad

    lothianlad Forum Resident

    "Shangri- La" is undeniably the best song on that album and one of the kinks greatest achievements.
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  4. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Great review. For someone joining at the tail-end of the discussion you've still succeeded in offering a new perspective.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  5. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It's all good mate, the Missus is asleep and unlikely to get up before I'm finished lol
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  6. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

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  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Mr Churchill Says

    stereo mix (4:41), recorded May-Jun 1969, remixed Jul 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    Well Mr. Churchill says, Mr. Churchill says
    We gotta fight the bloody battle to the very end
    Mr. Beaverbrook says we gotta save our tin
    And all the garden gates
    And empty cans are gonna make us win

    We shall defend our island
    On the land and on the sea
    We shall fight them on the beaches
    On the hills and in the fields
    We shall fight them in the streets
    Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed to so few
    'Cos they have made our British Empire
    A better place for me and you
    And this was their finest hour

    Well Mr. Montgomery says
    And Mr. Mountbatten says
    We gotta fight the bloody battle to the very end
    As Vera Lynn would say
    We'll meet again someday
    But all the sacrifices we must make before the end

    Did you hear that plane flying overhead
    There's a house on fire and there's someone lying dead
    We gotta clean up the streets
    And get me back on my feet
    Because we wanna be free
    Do your worst and we'll do our best
    We're gonna win the way that Mr. Churchill says
    Oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! oh!

    Well Mr. Churchill says
    We gotta hold up our chins
    We gotta show some courage and some discipline
    We gotta black up the windows and nail up the doors
    And keep right on till the end of the war

    Written by: Ray Davies
    Published by: Hill & Range Songs BMI

    The Battle Of Britain may well have been the darkest hour in England's modern history, and for the first time, I believe, an offshore enemy managed to put enough pressure on the country to almost make it break.
    In these modern times a lot of people have a lot to say about Winston Churchill, and some of it may be true, and some of it may not, but in time, Winston Churchill was needed and the right man at the right time. Without Churchill's stoic resilience, and never say die attitude, the second world war may well have taken a different course.

    As ugly as the Battle of Britain was, for the English at least, it caused a rallying of spirit, from the people, and class didn't matter anymore. For all the talk about, and history surrounding the Royal family, Elizabeth, the Queen Mother of Queen Elizabeth the Second, and wife of George VI, the King by default, after Edward ran off with Mrs Wallace Simpson, and essentially abdicated, ends up in the awkward position of leading the country out of duty, George lived from 1895 to 1952, and was King from 1936 to 1952. Remembering that the second world war ran from 1939 to 1945.... That's a rare piece of timing there, and again it seems to be the right person for the job, just happened to be there. George VI is a somewhat tragic figure, yet also has a certain historical respect due to the way in which he was thrown into the responsibility for England. His story is made some what more famous in the excellent movie The King's Speech. Where in spite of being the reluctant leader, with a quite severe speech impediment, he stood up and faced the humiliation of speaking before the English people ... it's quite a story....
    Anyway, the Queen Mother, very famously was out in the streets with the people, and she gave the royal family a human face. She famously refused to leave London, or send her children to Canada during the blitz. She declared, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave." So in spite of everything else, this was a King with honour, and he realised that the people needed a strong figurehead who was willing to stay in the eye of the storm with them, to encourage them to stand up to the assault.
    Elizabeth visited troops, hospitals, factories and the parts of London that were targeted, the East End that took a lot of hammer. Initially her visits provoked hostility as rubbish was thrown at her and she was jeered, in part because she wore expensive clothes, and that somewhat alienated her from the people.... In her defence she explained that whenever people came to see her they always wore their best clothes, and she thought it was only right for her to do the same. When Buckingham Palace was bombed she famously stated "I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face."
    I believe that she even found herself under the city with the common folk during some air raids.... I hope nobody minds that slight sidetrack, but this was a strong woman, who stood up tall in the face of the odds, specifically for the people of England.

    Winston Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was on the Western Front in the First World War, and in spite of some stories surrounding all that, he didn't have to be there, he chose to be there.
    Churchill was vocal about what was happening in Germany between 1933 and 1936, and perhaps if folks had listened to his warnings, something could have changed, but in spite of our human perspectives, everything happens for a reason and the war came to the world, as wars are want to do.
    Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister and made a lot of terrible decisions, even attempting to appease Mussolini and Hitler. Churchill spoke out against this and called for collective action to deter the German aggression.
    After the fall of Austria, Churchill spoke in the house of commons in an attempt to get the gravity of the situation recognised. To some degree it was all to no avail, as even when he called for a unity among the English and European nations at threat, it fell on deaf ears. Chamberlain signed the Munich agreement, essentially allowing Germany to continue annexing European nations.
    On 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Chamberlain reappointed Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty.... Churchill essentially ended up the Prime Minister from 1940-1945.... and as much as some of his speeches seem to be mocked these days, he was the right man, at the right time, and between Churchill's wartime leadership, and the stoic resilient King and Queen, in the face of what seemed overwhelming odds, the English people and England rallied behind them.
    Huge parts were played by Russia, and later after the Pearl Harbour bombing, the US, but this dark time in modern history is an unusual character study on resilience and duty, that bears some exploration.
    As we saw in Yes Sir No Sir and Some Mother's Son, War is a tragic and horrible thing, but sometimes it is unavoidable, and generally it is in the wash ip at the end when people will decide if it was worth it or not. With the genocide discovered at the end of the war, history speaks to this war as being necessary.... and sadly, so it was.

    So what we have so far with this remarkable album, conceived by Ray Davies and executed perfectly by The Kinks, is an history of the UK from, roughly, pre-1901, and so far leading up to these dark times from 1939-1945.

    Again Ray shows a lot of knowledge of these events, with the references to saving tin, garden gates and empty cans, in order to have the resources required to make the ammunition and such required to fight this war.
    Well Mr. Churchill says, Mr. Churchill says
    We gotta fight the bloody battle to the very end
    Mr. Beaverbrook says we gotta save our tin
    And all the garden gates
    And empty cans are gonna make us win

    The second section of lyrics is like an amalgam of quotes from the times, and speaks to the types of things said to try and rally the English people to stand up in the face of the storm. As much as we may dislike the idea of war, and I'm sure we all do, there was a need to not capitulate, and that often requires motivational speeches, particularly when it seems all hope is lost and you are waiting for the seemingly inevitable. It is somewhat like standing up to the bully in the schoolyard. You can submit or runaway, but that won't solve the problem. To stand toe to toe with the bully and give as good as you get, is often the only way to get through..... Often the only way out is through the storm. For all his human flaws, Churchill realised this, and motivated the English people, with the help of the Royal family, and in many ways, together they showed somewhat, what being noble actual is.

    The third set of lyrics up there speaks directly to the Battle Of Britain, and the Blitzkrieg. It essentially lays out the strategy in the lyrics. At this stage of the war, England was at its most vulnerable point, possibly in history, and due to all these sets of circumstances the people stood up, and took it on the chin, and eventually withstood the assault.

    Obviously that is all nutshelled again, this was one of the biggest things in the twentieth century, and it has left an indelible mark on the world that still resonates through the world today......

    Anyway.... so to the music.

    This is another long track for the Kinks, from a 1969 perspective, and I don't see any drop in quality here at all, perhaps this isn't as grand as Shangri La, in some ways, but to me, this is a key track on the album, and when we look at the decline and fall of the British Empire, this is where it all comes to a head, and after the second world war..... that's when everything really changed.

    We open with a halting "mi.......ster, Churchill says", and again it is perfectly phrased, as we move into the song. Again we have the lyrics and vocals beautifully mixed with Dave giving us some really nice guitar, that is working as a call and response type feel, but with some really cool little runs that add a lot of colour to the track.
    Musically it is almost like a country music flavour, seen through the lens of the Kinks, as a sixties, British rock/pop band. We are again full of melody and the feel is excellent, and everybody is contributing just the right parts to make it work.

    We get the first real musical change up at 1:36, as the dreaded air raid siren sounds, and the band move into a gritty chord pattern that works perfectly in my opinion.... I'm not sure about references prior, likely blues songs, but songs that used this chord pattern later were JJ Cale/Eric Clapton - After Midnight, Deep Purple - Highway Star ... it is a very recognisable chord pattern, I believe we would call it a I - III - IV - III progression, but I'm sure one of our more theory based folks will correct me if I messed that up.... it's been a while.

    The music suitably matches the urgency of the situation, and with the air raid siren we get a very focused use of the track linking techniques the band first tried on the Face To Face album, but of course here, it is a way to link the song sections together, and it works beautifully.
    The lyrics are horribly real, and Ray delivers the vocal in a beautifully direct and apt manner.
    As we come out of Ray's "Mr Churchill Says .... ahhhhhh", we get Dave delivery an excellent piece of guitar, that has some cross reference to the type of stuff Robby Krieger was using in the Doors. I also like that is opens and closes with a definite riff. That riff to me is perfect and speaks to the drama, and melancholy of the track. I think Dave's lead wandering afterwards is also really very good, and has the feel required to get it across. When the riff section comes back in, it again works beautifully.
    Then we get a breakdown, that really is not uncommon in the field of rap really. We break down into a straight drum beat and the guys do a unison kind of rap.
    Well Mr. Churchill says
    We gotta hold up our chins
    We gotta show some courage and some discipline
    We gotta black up the windows and nail up the doors
    And keep right on till the end of the war

    I'm not sure, but it seems again, to be somewhat ahead of its time in some regards, even though Dylan had done a few things considered to be "sort of" rap, they weren't really in the same context as this.

    For me, this track is certainly no drop in quality, of songwriting, or lyric writing, nor delivery or arrangement.
    To me this is just another fantastic piece of writing, again executed perfectly by the band....
    Personally I love this, and it is one of the highlights of the albums for me.

    Again, a winding, and long intro... I'm honestly not particularly trying to do all these long intros here, but this album and these songs particularly have so much history connected to them, that it would seem a disservice to leave out too much.....

  8. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  9. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    The BBC recording

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  10. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Live: Fillmore West, San Francisco 29 Nov '69

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  11. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    So now we know @Mark wakes up at 5:30 on his off-days!! This man is a machine!

    This is just another fabulous track. Impossible to name all the excellent bits and pieces that make it come alive, they’re all around the 4’40'’ of it. In the first half, my favorites snippets are the “gonna make us wi-ee-ee-ee-eeen” little harmony, then the big speeches section (“we shall defend our land”), with Ray inventing/perfecting his talk/sing persona, that he’ll put to mostly good (and sometimes bad) use throughout the 70’s. The second part of the song, after the bombing sirens, is when genius strikes (again): a free form masterclass in “voicing” people and characters, as an answer to the distant propaganda notions of the name dropped politics of the initial verses. Ray sings (and talks) from various points of view, a technique now well established in the album, but rarely to such a stupendous effect. I’ve got to say this song (a lot like Yes Sir, No Sir) is much more complex and layered than I ever thought it was before, well… before listening thoroughly today. In both cases, the title-phrase is so immediately catchy that there’s a risk you could reduce the song to it (and Dave’s accompanying guitar). But taken as a whole, the song is just as structurally complex and carefully crafted as the two epic tracks we just covered… and just as groundbreaking. The second part especially (with the guitar riffing, the guitar soloing, Mick’s drum-bombs exploding all around and Ray doing his whole panoply of rock and punk voices is sheer Kinks virtuosity and, yes, vision. Still waiting for the album to slow down, but it’s clearly reluctant to do so…
  12. Adam9

    Adam9 Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    My parents were from Poland but they emigrated to the UK after World War II (separately - they met in London). Very soon after I was born, they moved from Highgate in London, close to Muswell Hill, to Toronto.
    My mother's family came from what is now Belarus. When the Red Army invaded eastern Poland in 1939, they were taken to Siberia where along with many others they lived in harsh conditions until the Nazi invasion of the USSR when they were allowed to leave.

    This reminds me of the one time I visited Australia (just loved it, BTW). When I was at the airport about to return home, one of the airport officials asked me about Canada and snow. He assumed everything came to a standstill with a snowfall!

    It was December and I remember seeing some beachgoers with Santa hats at Bondi Beach. Also, talking to a family of surfers at Manly Beach. I told them how beautiful the place was. They replied, yes, but we're so far away from the rest of the world.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  13. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

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  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    The songs and the histories shared by this group of people on this thread are really making this a special thread to me.
    The lives people have led, and how in many ways we can only vaguely understand how difficult those lives are, even though we have are own stuff to go through.... the impossible decisions made, the resilience, the courage....
    The music and the people involved in this thread, directly, and indirectly, are quite inspiring to me.

    Thanks everybody for graciously sharing all this stuff, it's beautiful
  15. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    lol, only so much life to live, and the clock is running out ... I don't want to sleep through it :)
  16. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Mr Churchill Says

    Always appreciated this but didn't lend it enough of an ear and fully examine it.
    I fully get the Robbie Kreiger reference as Dave stays away from the pentatonic scale in this passage and I loved Mark's history lesson as there was plenty I either didn't know or had half forgotten.
    I find it very impressive just how well the young Ray Davies knew his English history and the research he undertook not just for this song but for many tracks on the album!
    Yes an important song in the context of our story and superbly structured though for me it does not have the appeal of the very top line cuts here despite quoting what Mr Churchill Says!
  17. skisdlimit

    skisdlimit Forum Resident

    Bellevue, WA
    :agree: Yes, I think this song seems to be ahead of its time in that to my ears it sounds a lot like Elvis Costello, especially that "We gotta fight the bloody battle to the very end" line, which I could so hear him singing. The Dylan observation is also apt, but I'm mostly with the rest of the participants here in that I'm surprised to see this song come up today at all given I thought you were going to take it paraphrase another great band: you're a "man machine" indeed!

    I think partly because it's a holiday, and mostly because other posts are so much better than mine, I'll keep my commentary on some of the songs I recently missed brief. Clearly, both "Australia" and "Shangri-La" are epics, which each take time to fully digest, but they are definitely brilliant pieces, especially the latter (even in its more echoey and distorted mono mix).
    Happy Labor Day, all! :wave:
  18. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Mr. Churchill Says: Brilliant. Lyrics and then the multi-faceted music, a mini-musical suite complete with a variety of voices taking on the different roles. I’ll say it in advance (!) but I will be reaching for a drink if I hear/read of anyone saying they didn’t “get” this from the first go-round.

    Having said that, I would not have put this out as the A-side single in the U.S. But I think it would have done fine in the British Commonwealth countries.

    Side note: I’m a big fan of British television series including Foyles War. Also, on Acorn TV, there’s a show called Wartime Farm that provides a good backdrop to this time frame (outside of the city, of course).
  19. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Exactly. I keep thinking this same thought. He most certainly brought out the books to make sure the quotes were accurate.

    Nowadays, I think, the songwriter would have to give a Churchill a partial credit for the lyrics!
  20. jethrotoe

    jethrotoe Forum Resident

    United States
    Great song, clever lyrics, really complex music.
    Love the chords during the air raid part. Dave’s guitar solo is fascinating. Again, how could somebody say this guy couldn’t play?

    It does seem like there’s an element where this song examines propaganda and is sort of sarcastic too: “Mr. Beaverbrook says, we gotta save our tin, and all the garden gates and empty cans are gonna make us win.” I’m sure that’s a real quote, or close to one, but it seems a bit tongue in cheek here.

    This sort if reminds me of some of the Preservation material, almost like a spiritual sibling or precursor to “Nobody Gives” as a deep historical and political statement.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  21. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Mr. Churchill Says:

    Yup, another epic. The first minute and a half are great for sure, but then it just shifts into high gear with great riffing, more aggressive vocals and then a great lengthy lead from Dave, followed by yet another shift into an even higher gear with some stellar drumming and chanting. Lyrically I was initially put off in the beginning by the narrowness of the topic, but I have really come to enjoy the lyrics as well. I think this is a fantastic song which ranks as one of my favorites on the album.

    this album really took some time to sink in for me. All of the preceding albums were comprised of short, to-the-point songs that were easily accessible and very catchy. Here we see the band moving towards what I perceive as that classic 70s album rock radio sound, with longer songs, often comprised of multiple parts, and more elaborate instrumentation and longer solos. This is typically more my style, so I’m surprised it took me so long to warm up to this album. I can only assume that, having spent the past few months listening to the kinks earlier, short punchy pop radio ready style of song, I wasn’t ready mentally for this new approach. Now I am and that’s a good thing as Lola vs…. is more of the same and I am loving that album as well.
  22. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Re: The garden gates line, I was born in 1980 yet I can still remember as a kid it being a common sight in the UK to still see public and private gates and railings that had had their excess ornamentation hacked off en masse to be melted down for use in the war effort 40-50 years previously. You almost never see that these days: I guess in the last 30 odd years most such features have been replaced, but it’s crazy to think that such casual reminders of the everyday impact of WW2 were still everywhere as late as the 80s.

    I guess this in some ways reflects the way that WW2 is currently slipping away from living memory: while there are still many people living who were adults during WW2, they are now all very elderly, in their 90s at least and thus hardly heard from these days, whereas previously the entire post war era has always had the generation who lived through the war watching over it. Without wanting to get too political, I think this gradual fading of the WW2 generation from the collective consciousness is not entirely unrelated to the course events have taken recently on the world stage.
  23. jethrotoe

    jethrotoe Forum Resident

    United States
    Fascinating. As a Millennial American, I was able to figure out the cans reference but that garden gates line never made sense to me.

    And not to steer this into a political direction, I think your second paragraph is spot on, and it’s a scary observation.

    My dad said that growing up in the late-60s into 70s, he used to encounter WW2 vets on the city bus who would randomly tell him stories about the war. One guy was one of the few survivors of a famous battle ship (can’t remember the name right now) that was bombed by the Japanese. He told my dad that all the sailors linked arms and tread water. The guy next to him stopped responding and he tapped the guy on the shoulder. The guy flipped over. The bottom half of him had been eaten by sharks.

    Our generation (well, you might be a young Gen Xer) didn’t have many opportunities to encounter people like this firsthand.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
  24. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Nicely observed. Yeah, I’m older than you but saw all kinds of war reminders when I was growing up in Japan (orphanages, amputee vets (in uniform) hobbling about on crutches. School bells, etc, were melted down for the war effort so, years later, when I found a hand bell at a temple antique market, it was quite a find.
  25. Toad of the Short Forest

    Toad of the Short Forest Forum Resident

    90220 Compton
    Some Mother's Son

    Quite possibly the prettiest anti-war song - a real tearjerker for sure. Unlike a lot of the anti-war songs of the day, SMS doesn't seem to be a call to action or really even offer any hope for present/future conflicts. You listen to something else like I Feel Like I'm Fixin to Die or the more famous war-son Fortunate Son and it's inspiring and hopeful... you kind of get the idea with those songs that there are others who hate the war just as much as you, and the music offers hope. But Some Mother's Son only offers reflection and despair. But I think it's good that it does... war is ugly and even though I love Fortunate Son and IFLIMTD, it's nice to have a song focus on those who died fighting and still can comment critically on the war. Arthur being a concept album, I'm guessing Ray had very little intent of relating it to Vietnam and I think the whole "past-tense" feel of the song is mostly a result of the story taking place in the past. Though. as songs like Shangri-La show, many of the themes on the album are timeless.


    This one sounds the most VGPS to me. It's interesting how each album has one song that feels like it could have been on the previous... VGPS had Village Green (yes I know it actually was recorded earlier), Something Else had Love Me Till the Sun Shines, Face to Face had You're Lookin' Fine, Kontroversy had Milk Cow Blues... Great song regardless. Love the drum fills.


    I always thought this one was sort of filler, but I've definitely come around to it. I think it's a fun track. And as their live performances of the era have showed, it's probably fun to play too. I like the grungey guitar break halfway through.


    Perhaps the most jammy Kinks song? One of my favorites from the album. Great melody, and a really fun track all round. I like the different voices Ray does throughout the song too. And the wobble board! Can't forget about that.

    Shangri La

    Top 5 Kinks song for sure! (edit: honestly, probably number 2. Nothing's gonna beat Waterloo Sunset and it's real close between this and Autumn Almanac but Shangri La is a masterpiece all around) Hard to say something about this one that hasn't been said already I suppose... just an incredible track. Has all of the lyrical depth of Waterloo Sunset (the greatest song of all time) and all of the compositional complexity and instrumental skill of any top prog band - the best of both worlds!

    Mick Avory's drums shine on this one - though if I had to pick one from this album that showcases the skins the best I'd pick She's bought a Hat..., but Shangri La utilizes it just as well. Compositionally this one is great... like the whole thing is 4 different songs that could work perfectly on their own but combined it's a real monster of a song.

    Going back to the drums though... the absoluet peak of the song (and the whole album) is the break after the chorus in the middle ... Shangri La lala la lala la la lala la...

    Mono is definitely the way to go here. I love mono - distortion and punchiness of the mix especially on this song make it that much more powerful imo. Turn it up to 11 and it's like you've had 20 cups of coffee (or tea).

    Mr. Churchill Says

    Another great rocker on the album, and possibly the one I listen to the most. It's hard to follow the momentum of Shangri-La, but Mr. Churchill and She's Bought a Hat carry the energy perfectly. Like Shangri-La, both Mr. and She's start slowly and build up, and also have great breaks. The break on here is great... the whole handclaps during the "Mr. Churchill says we gotta hold up our chins we gotta show some courage and discipline" section is great. As is the war siren.

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