11 February 2013

Verging on Vinyl : Review of Untitled #23

Day Thirty-Eight: The Church – Untitled #23
8th Feb 2013


 “Back when I wrote about Burning Airlines’ Identikit, I decided to be a smartypants and ask J. Robbins and Peter Moffett for opinions on where to go with that entry, and got different responses from each. It did, however, help to decide which release to go with that time. When I started planning ahead for my next polls (after the onslaught around artists starting with “B”) I saw that I had the Church in the running. I actually typed up that poll (Untitled #23 vs. Starfish) and then decided that, since he had actually passed along my previous writing about the Church (now and forever the most popular post on that blog, as a result!), I would ask Steve Kilbey for input here. After doing so, I started pondering asking Marty Willson-Piper, and maybe even Peter Koppes, just to get a well-rounded set of responses, if I could, but I was surprised to get a response from Mr. Kilbey almost immediately. Without any demands, he simply told me he’d prefer I write about Untitled #23, without question (as I had asked specifically if he had a preference). When that response came in, I thought about it. I realized that, most likely, he said this because, well, if there’s a Church album people know about–it’s Starfish. It seemed, then, like it would be the right thing in all senses to follow his wishes. I took down the poll (few if any even saw it), and marked Untitled #23 for writing today.
I’ve already written about how I stumbled into the Church (the link above will take you there, if you are curious), so I’ll go ahead and leave it at the most barebones note possible. The portion of it which relates to this very entry is as follows: while I knew their biggest single, I stumbled into some of their most recent work a decade ago by chance, and this was my most expansive introduction, and informed my understanding of how the band sounds almost more emphatically than even the song that was thoroughly ingrained in my head. It was a sound appropriate for my musical tastes at the time–I was deeply into post rock, and the sounds that lay within albums like After Everything Now This were not far off from that same sensibility.
Untitled #23, as a record, is a major variation on the album as it was released on CD. The three tracks I marked with an asterisk (*) above are not present on the CD version, and were released as the B-sides on the Pangaea EP. The order is also quite significantly shifted, with former closer “Operetta” moved to the end of Side Two, and “Space Saviour” shifted forward a full seven tracks–amongst other things. This does make for a bit of a change of pace, but the tracklisting’s overall changes, compared to just dropping the extra tracks at the end, work where they lay (or lie, I’m not too sure).
Steady, clear, patient drumming begins the album in “Cobalt Blue”, a gentle electronic noise fading in, before Steve Kilbey’s voice enters, guitars¹ shortly following and chord-based, one moving higher but holding with the other. “To go and mingle in my mind”, Kilbey sings, and his voice echoes and drifts upward, pulled back down as the bass enters. Acting as counter to the guitars and giving them a brighter feel, the bass expands the range of the song itself, filling out the lower end where it had been left clear for the opening. Each time Kilbey’s voice floats off into scattering reflections, there’s a sense of a soft light spreading across the track, though after one occurrence about halfway through it takes the guitars with it, and leaves a woodwind sound that is just a bit darker, shadows falling where we just saw light. A mumble of distant voices rises up under this as a solo manifests slowly; it’s not the kind that defies the work around it, or elevates its tone or feeling to another one, it expands on the existing mood, a mix of light and softened darkness. The drums walks the track out with four easy snare hits, two pauses, and four more. Despite the snare emphasis, it’s not a march, though, it’s a normal step, one that walks us gently into “Deadman’s Hand”.
Far more uptempo, but in no way suddenly upbeat, “Deadman’s Hand” is relentlessly catchy. The riff it comes in on is distorted, but the kind that eats at the edges of the sound, rather than explicitly defining it. It’s a dark, lower-pitched kind of riff, though it doesn’t have a downward motion to it: it’s more like the kind of sound that might once have stuck the band with the label “gothic” (which has happened), but is more, perhaps, Gothic, than it is “gothic rock”–the sense of wizened or aged darkness, rather than a simple implication of deliberately depressing material. Frank Kearns adds a 12-string ring over the top of this, one that adds to this sense, despite the tendency for 12-strings to often cheer things up. When Kilbey begins singing, it’s with his normal voice, but tempered with a clever production move that changes it in spite of itself: he’s singing gently, but with the lightest “echo” that gives it an extremely ethereal quality. That “echo” is other voices here, of course, doubtless those of Marty or Peter (or both), but so subdued as to sound like shadows of Kilbey’s own. It’s a weird feeling: the drumming is uptempo, but the overall sound manages to catch itself at either end, turning it into some kind of catchy pop/rock song filtered through a drain on the most energetic elements.
The last track in its original placement, “Pangaea” begins to introduce us to the sounds that permeate the rest of the album: the first moments are a blend of mixed sounds, including touches of harp from Patti Hood and scattered notes from multiple guitars. A 12-string and bass gently bring everything together as a light cymbal wash marks the actual change. Gently strumming 12-string, thumping bassline–the song is a wash of sound, accented by backing vocals that “Oooh” gently and prettily behind Steve’s voice, which has regained its usual edge: a certain sharpness to the baritone that is incredibly distinct, that enunciates clearly, yet with a sort of catch to this that is unbelievably appropriate for their music. It all feels like a spread of sound, warm and soft, with Kilbey’s sharpened voice cutting at it, as he sings, “You’ve got your hands/’Round my throat/You’ve got your voice/In my head”, a haunting response from the others adds, “No matter what”, his threats suddenly softened by the chorus: “Pangaea…” the edge dropped and the last syllable turned to a pretty little wave. The 12-string suddenly takes over, sliding expertly through a solo that runs counter to the staid cello of Sophie Glasson.
Moved from near the end of the album, “Anchorage” is langorous compared to the preceding tracks, but the wandering, subdued keys seem to pull it upward somewhat, small points of light dotting the sliding drums, the downed guitars that blend perfectly with the keys, the lower end balanced between the mournful draw of Glasson’s cello and the almost upbeat bassline. “Just the way the dead have felt/Nothing like the way my name is spelt/But I belt it out anyway” Steve sings, the serrations emphasized, defiant, as roaring distorted electrics build the track over huge drums and splash, the wave only a small one. Scattered electronic noises are left in its wake, as the track goes on, a guitar taking off on its own to make its point, not taking it past an extended lead. The lyrics are constructed as defiant and pained, but are mostly delivered in defiance, expressing the pain with more aggression than hurt. Harmonized briefly, it’s like others carrying Steve’s defiance up when it might falter. Alongside them, a blazing guitar and then another wave, this one much larger–but it backs away, too, and this time leaves a quite chorale, the sliding tick of hi-hat emphasized drumming and a hummingbird-heart bassline. If it weren’t so eloquently sung and performed, it would be like a monologue to the absent, spoken with the openness and pride of a drunk, but the awareness, the consistency make it, instead, heartfelt admission and confession.
“Happenstance” makes for a rather curious song: at first that clean and clear biting winter wind of Kilbey’s voice and steadily strummed 12-string, tom-heavy drums and sliding bass–but then the upward curve of a higher tone turns it to something almost sunny, as Kilbey intones “Happenstance…” with just a touch of variation in each channel to give a fuller dimension to the sound. Near a whisper, Willson-Piper breathily adds a voice almost like a memory to this interruption, before that shine of lazy sun fans across it again. The trading voices of Steve and Marty, and the shining final peak of sound gives the song a feeling of relaxation almost narrated by both the present and the past.
Clanging bells and a soft buzz call “Sunken Sun” into place, though the song itself is an expansion of the sound of “Happenstance”, warm and easy resignation created with a guitar that climbs up, curious, to land on a ringing chord that is warm but expansive. As a line ends and a drum beat sounds, an operatic keyboard voice holds over empty space, ringing, echoing guitar that strikes with a sustained bass note falls across it, until it all hushes and returns to the calmness of the opening. One of the most striking solos on the album meanders in near the end of the track, never showing off at all, just growing naturally from the space it is left, often holding notes for extended periods, rather than cramming as many in as possible. It’s a beautifully organic extension of the song’s tone. The song fades off with those echoing guitar chords, clear and bright, but balanced by their companion chord into a sort of pained recollection of happy memory.
The first track to appear on the vinyl and not on the CD, “LLC” was given lyrics (and vocals) by Peter Koppes (as opposed to the usual Kilbey). A fantastic oscillating 12-string melody is the anchor of the song as a whole, and runs through all but . Much cheerier than anything previous (allegedly the cause for keeping the track off the album originally), it shifts into a predictive bridge and then a more steady chorus, before returning to that delightful 12-string run. A subtle lead holds and blends behind it, only taking real control at the very end with a rapid, twisting outro.
Originally the album’s closer, “Operetta” oddly fits in the same way as closer for Side Two and thus half the album. Strong keys and gently waving guitar eases the song into place, a seemingly endless sustain and echo on the spaced guitar chords emphasize the feeling of ends, of the music filtering out into the expanses. Overlapped, harmonized vocals and deep, low keys mark the chorus, like all preceding sounds and voices coming together by design to tie things together. This is how the song ends, too, slowly losing each layer until it is left as just a bending bass and drums, fading to nothing.
“On Angel Street” manages the neat trick of continuing without a lost beat from a track that could have ended the album. A long-held bass note accentuates a series of repeated keyboard notes and a wandering guitar. When Steve’s voice is added to this, it’s the sound of a singer alone, the keys keeping a full musicality in place, but making apparent the ambient nature of the song. The sounds are almost like blinking lights or quiet warning sirens, a backing to the voice that doesn’t imply furthered sentience or emotional presence, even as their slow shift between notes creates the emotional sense of the song. Wavering and wailing guitar leads come and enter like ghosts–beautiful but transient. That this does not end up coming off like a novelty, or an interlude, or some other kind of “fluff” is some kind of amazing.
Previously the penultimate track, “Lunar” has shifted backward only slightly (unless one counts running time). A lone woodwind starts the track as vaguely pastoral, a huge wash of ringing cymbal and the slow, resonating guitar chords setting up the slightly backed-up voice of Steve, thumping drums hinting at what is to come when a bassline filled with energy and activity absent from the other instruments comes in, churning the low end and attempting to push life into the adjacent instruments in their slowed tempos. It’s ineffective and everything falls away to a an echo-laden voice from Steve, on beat instruments, and then it seems to gain life, only to leave nothing but the woodwinds alone in its wake again.
“Insanity” is the other track that let’s Kilbey’s voice rest, as Marty Willson-Piper takes over, confident guitars stepping in ahead of the rest of the band, though when he begins singing–“It’s just insanity,” the operative word is “just”: it has a shrug to it, as if to suggest that there’s nothing to be concerned about. It works upward with each line, releasing at the end of them. It’s cheerier, even as it does not move any more rapidly. This isn’t to say it’s actually cheerful, it’s just not as…Romantic (that capital “R” is intentional). Marty’s voice goes vaguely Dylan-like, as he suggests the possibility that maybe it doesn’t make sense to ascribe the ways of the world to a divine plan, that it’s easier to see it as all random, and anything else might be, well…²
Oh, the guitar that opens “Space Saviour”; it carries just the right tone and effects, the slight watered sound and firm pull of the strings making it viscerally appealing without requiring or exhibiting the kind of feeling that a blues-inflected kind might. The steady on-beat guitar chords form a simple backing as Steve sings with the kind of voice that feels like he’s pushing it with as much power as he can–not volume, mind you, just force. The thumping four beats on drum matched with gradually opening splash are the perfect crescendo of repetition for the repeated needs of Kilbey’s words: “And I’ve gotta get up/And I’ve gotta get on/And I’ve gotta get off/And I’ve gotta get out…” When they fall away, the opening riff returns, and the drums turn to the thump and hi-hat of anticipatory restraint, as Kilbey intones calmly, gradually building back to that huge and determined parallel repetition. The song finally splinters and spreads, before leaving itself, to a watery, circling guitar that plays alone for just a moment before being left to hang.
When I noted that “Lunar” was only briefly re-arranged but with a qualifier, “So Love May Find Us” was, in essence, the entirey of that qualification. “So Love May Find Us” has a 17:48 runtime, and…I’m not sure I could, in good faith, attempt to walk anyone through it. This is not the kind of lengthy track that’s arranged around droning repetition for atmosphere, nor constant builds toward huge moments (like “Atom Heart Mother” does), nor cobbled together songs. It’s too well designed to feel like a completely improvised jam, especially with those tasty guitars in the first few minutes, shot out only every few moments, strong and clear, and hinting at a future threat. The drumming is controlled and low at the start, jazzy and interesting, burning quietly with the promise of future expanse. Eventually it begins to rumble, a solo of immense and unusual nature placing itself like a flag at the first third, marking the moment at which Glasson’s cello and Michael Bridge’s violin take precedent. For a short time, the song is more ambient than anything else, the bass drawing Steve’s voice back in with keys, before the drums finally fulfill the promise laid out earlier–not huge and aggressive, just free-wheeling and free-ranging, hi-hat traded for ride, fills and rolls eventually morphing into the standing beat. The song seems to end, hovering on ride, slowing keys, choral backing–but the bass draws it back in, the ride increasing in power, but easing off as the song shifts into a continued downtempo phrasing, ending with an excellent drum pass and a final wavering, splintering fade off.
The Church are often plagued by that comment: “Wait, the one from the 80s?” and there’s really no quality justification for it. They’ve released music with some regularity since that time, even as they’ve wobbled around the centrepoints that are Marty and Steve, Koppes taking a brief hiatus in the 90s. Their work has been generally well-regarded in all this time, even outside the fanbase. Untitled #23 was hailed as a supreme work, and justifiably so. This album is stunningly beautiful. It carries sounds you could ascribe to sources like post rock, yet when you try to pin them down, you realize it’s only a faint reminder. Neither treading their own water, nor anyone else’s, they’ve evolved steadily over the years within the very wide boundaries of their own sound. Bands with long histories often suffer obnoxious repetition of commentary–I’ve seen members of Pere Ubu incensed that their new album is not so much reviewed badly, as reviewed poorly, always referencing thirty year old albums as if that’s the only touchstone for a professional review, despite consistent releases all the way through now. They complained, too, of “Wow, they can still rock…” comments, which are similarly useless.
I suppose I could estimate how old the members of the Church were in 2009, but it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t impressive that anyone can still play at any age, nor that they can play well. It isn’t impressive that a band just isn’t releasing dreck after nearly thirty years either. What is impressive is the strength of identity in an album released almost 29 years after their first single. There’s no sense of struggling to maintain an established sound, or of flailing wildly for an entirely new one. No sense of tired, uncomfortable, should-have-retired-but-just-won’t recycling or cashing in. If a new band had released this work out of nowhere, it would be stunning. If any other long established band had released this work after a long hiatus, or even after working steadily, it would be stunning. And so this is: it’s not the sound of finally realized maturity, or of experimentation finally succeeding at re-lighting torches, it’s the sound of honed quality.
There’s no easy word for the tone that pervades this album, even with the addition of Peter and Marty’s “happier” songs (“Insanity” and “LLC”), which actually fit quite well within the whole, perhaps because of the tempering of “So Love May Find Us”. It’s the sound of the Church: not “goth”, but wise, lean, artful, and clear, with enough darkness that a casual look might relegate them (again) to goth. The album art–Marty’s photos, and the design of his significant other, Tiare Helberg and Guppy Art’s Rachel Gutek–is brilliantly perfect. It’s the kind of design and image that you can get lost in alongside the music. It’s simple and clean, all deep rust and cross-hatched off-white, but a close looks shows you thick, peeling paint and cracked walls. The interior is more of the same: the way the off white left side jumps out from the dark red of the exterior, the way the thick, peeling pale red of the right moves against it–it’s nothing at all and everything at once, whatever you want, need, or feel it to be, because it doesn’t openly declare anything about the music contained. The nonchalant font, the ambiguous (or plain) title, the lack of uppercase on the exterior, it’s brilliant for preventing preconceived notions.
This isn’t an album to have a big happy dance party to, no. And, while you could take it as a possibly uneasy lullaby, it has so much energy despite the slower tempos that it remains engaging, and perhaps more engaging than much of music is. I found myself completely aware but closing my eyes throughout listening, a feeling almost like waking during a solo in “So Love May Find Us”, yet bewildered as I could recall everything I had heard up to that point in the piece, as if it has nearly hypnotized me. It’s too at ease with itself to feel overly contrived, yet too tight to feel lazy and random.
I could question the fact that this album has not made “the rounds” of the music community, but nothing is so simple as quality imbuing a work with legs. And that’s a truly unfortunate truth.
¹I am normally inclined to ascribe names to instruments, but they traded up enough on this album that I’m simply not going to bother, except where guests appear (who are specifically credit to instruments on tracks!)
²As I’m sometimes wary of misheard words, I decided to peruse lyrical transcriptions of “Insanity” and found someone who managed to completely ignore the clear moments that define these aspects: “And it’s full of holes, this Holy Bible” became “And it’s full of holes is your only rival”, and “unless it’s just a myth and” to “and let’s just admit that”. It almost looks like censoring, or willful refusal. For a moment, I thought I’d imagined things, but, no, that’s definitely what he’s singing. And, strangely–these are the only transcriptions I can find. I do sometimes wonder about people… ” – by R.C. Killian


30 August 2011

Music Review: the church – Untitled #23


“Absolutely mesmerizing. I had no idea The Church still had a record like this in them. Untitled #23 is hands down their best since Heyday, and it gives that one a run for the money. I was so floored I began composing this review before the disc even ended.

One of the things that makes these songs so good is their textured sound. The majestic pop of “Already Yesterday” or “Under The Milky Way” was a thing of beauty, no question. But that style dated very quickly, which is one of the reasons they had such difficulty following up their early success.

The atmospheres The Church toyed with back in the day have now fully matured. Untitled #23 is a dark dream of a record, hypnotic almost. The opening track “Cobalt Blue” draws the listener in immediately. With Marty Willson-Piper’s chiming guitars framing Steve Kilbey’s haunting refrain “Let it go, let it go” the results are riveting.

“Pangaea” and “Space Saviour” continue the mood, but it is with “On Angel Street” that this record becomes triumphant. It is a film noir journey through Kilbey’s subconscious, as he ruminates on a relationship’s end. This is the most personal song I have heard in ages, an achingly beautiful piece of music.

“Anchorage” is another peak, the interplay between the band is just incredibly tight as the song builds to it’s climax. “Operetta” closes things out as they began, with swirling guitars framing stream of conscious lyrics, as only The Church can do.

Given the band’s spotty record since Starfish, I thought they might have front loaded the best tracks, and I kept waiting for the clunkers to appear. There are none on Untitled #23. To record what is quite possibly their best album ever after nearly 30 years together is an extraordinary achievement.

It is also one hell of a record. I wish I knew the significance of the title, but like everything else here, it really does not matter. All that matters is the music, and in that regard The Church have hit a home run.” – by Greg Barbrick  April 27, 2009

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-the-church-untitled-23/#ixzz1WVz9TU9c ”


29 November 2010

Beat Magazine review : Untitled #23

28 November 2010

The Big Takeover review: Heyday


After putting out a pair of EPs in 1984 that would be combined into the LP Remote Luxuryin the States, the Church released its fourth full-length album, which would be its last for its then-patron EMI. Produced by Englishman Peter Walsh, chosen by the band for his recent work with Simple Minds and Scott WalkerHeyday gives the quartet a brighter, more lush sound than ever before, with strings and horns enhancing a few tracks. The band responds to the shiny presentation with a strong set of tunes that show a tight creative unity, as this is the first LP on which the songs were composed as a band.

Heyday is more dominated by up-tempo pop tunes than anything the Church has done outside of its first album. “Night of Light” and the glorious single “Tantalized” make excellent use of horn bursts and string arrangements, two things one would think the Church would never need. “Myrrh” and “Columbus” keep the caffeinated jangle pop vibe going, both tunes a swirl of ringing 6- and 12-string guitars and Steve Kilbey‘s laconic mystery. “Disenchanted” and “Tristesse” bring the energy level down for a more midtempo introspection, without stinting on hooks or drive. The single “Already Yesterday” puts strong hooks into a moody arrangement that likely killed its chances on the charts. “Youth Worshipper” rides a descending melody armed with keyboards, strings, saxophone and a lyric decrying plastic surgery, while “Roman” burns down its arrangement in an album-ending flurry of interlocking six-strings. In the midst of all the crash and clang of guitar rock, “Happy Hunting Ground” stands out, a gentle, misty instrumental that’s like a pause for breath.

This reissue is particularly generous with its B-sides, all of which are worthy additions to the catalog. “As You Will” and “The View,” written and sung by guitarists Peter Koppes andMarty Willson-Piper respectively, are both guitar pop gems, tight and tuneful. “Trance Ending” lives up to its name, a drifting wash of psychedelic mystery that’s a better ending to the record than “Roman,” its original stopping point. Practically overflowing with memorable hooks and ear-caressing textures, Heyday is one of the Church’s most well-crafted and accessible albums.

25 November 2010

The Big Takeover review: Seance


“the church‘s third album, 1983’s Seance continued the band’s rapid evolution into the psychedelic powerhouse it would become. But an odd mix also makes it a sonic anomaly in the band’s catalog. While the band self-produced the recordings, then-engineer Nick Launay was brought in to mix, which he did without any input from the group. Launay would go on to produce several landmark recordings by the likes of Midnight Oil and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, but in 1983 he was as enamored with high-tech mixing and production techniques as everyone else. The result was twofold: a smoky, almost Gothic atmosphere that ends up serving the band’s increasingly abstract vision quite well and a horribly dated, gated reverb/triggered drum sound that sticks out like a preacher at a porn convention. Love it or hate it, the sonics of Seance make it an album that’s one of the band’s most distinctive.

Fortunately, the songs themselves are strong enough hold up under an outsider’s treatment. “It’s No Reason,” “Now I Wonder Why” and the lyrically eccentric “Electric Lash” solidify the Church’s penchant for jangling folk rock. “Dropping Names” and “Disappear?” fulfill the group’s quota of psychedelic anthems, while “It Doesn’t Change” is another of its building epics. The acoustic guitar-driven “Fly” opens the album with a breath of fresh air before the smoke sets in, while “One Day” makes brilliant repetitive use of a ringing 12-string riff even as it fights a bizarre, box-walloping drum track. The LP’s only group composition (the usual touring/recording grind forced the band to rely on Steve Kilbey‘s overachieving songsmithery), “Travel By Thought” attempts to be a space rock epic, but the uneasy marriage of Kilbey’s spoken word rambling with the band’s majestic psychedelia prevents it from truly taking off.

Two more B-sides appear as bonus cuts here: the pleasant but fairly non-descript folk rocker “Someone Special” and the gorgeous, chiming pop tune “Autumn Soon.” Due to a mix obscured by clouds and the band’s continued drive towards mood over meaning,Seance is a polarizing album in the church’s lineage. But the band’s evolution as writers and musicians gives the record enough artistic weight to give it quality even for those who think the production is a disaster.” – by Michael Toland

24 November 2010

The Big Takeover review: The Blurred Crusade


“Originally released in 1982, The Blurred Crusade, the second album from the church, takes the guitar-heavy new wave sound of its debut Of Skins and Heart and reshapes it, beginning the process of evolution into what would become the church‘s sonic signature. The first major difference is in the singing; Steve Kilbey has modulated his thin baritone into the relaxed croon that is his signature sound, and the lack of strain improves his vocals immensely. The second is that the band reins in its youthful energy, not to diminish its power, but to focus it, resulting in more evenly-paced, steady performances. New drummer Richard Ploog is less of a basher than original skinsman Nick Ward, more versatile and nimble. Guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper (who uses a 12-string as his main axe at this point) mesh even better as a guitar team, sounding as if they’re adapting the tactics of Television tag team Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd to theByrds‘ elegiac folk rock. Fresh from working with the Rolling Stones, big time producerBob Clearmountain gives the band a clear, crisp sound without running roughshod over its creative instincts. (That would happen on the next record at the hands of a more respected producer.)

The one-two pop punch of “Almost With You” and “When You Were Mine” open the record with the most explicit recollection of the fizzy power pop of the first LP, but trades the youthful exuberance for a keener sense of craft. “Just For You,” the brief “Don’t Look Back” and “To Be In Your Eyes” add more acoustic guitars for lush, irresistible midtempo folk rock that’s beguiling in its casual melodic flair. “Field of Mars” features Willson-Piper’s lead vocal debut on a spacey ballad that sounds like it really is being beamed in from the titular planet. “A Fire Burns” boasts an unusually muscular guitar crash, almost as if the band was subverting the Aussie hard rock tradition by filtering it through its own sensibility.

Most significant, though, are “An Interlude” and “You Took,” the two group-composed efforts. Up to this point Kilbey wrote nearly all the material solo, though the individual musicians certainly were allowed to imprint their own personalities. But “An Interlude,” a jangled journey into the inner/outer space dichotomy in which the band would soon become comfortable, and “You Took,” a perfectly composed and arranged epic anthem, sound truly like the products of a group mind – you can really hear the church’s sonic aesthetic taking shape on these tunes. Indeed, “You Took” stands as a high-water mark in the band’s catalog to this day.

The new edition adds a pair of B-sides. The instrumental “The Golden Dawn” is entertaining but fairly inconsequential, at times sounding like the band has been listening to a little too much Alan Parsons Project. But “Life Speeds Up” is fantastic, a long track that begins as a punky pop tune and evolves into a dynamic anthem with soaring lead guitar and an almost casual ability to fill a stadium with sound. Both tunes enhance an already strong record, one that holds up as one of the very best in the church’s long, fruitful catalog.” – by Michael Toland

23 November 2010

The Big Takeover review: Of Skins and Heart


“While the group never truly gained the popular acclaim many of us thought it was due, the church has still managed to carve out a consistently interesting career for itself, moving from underground sensation to (briefly) popular mainstream act to legendary veterans, all while never resting on its own laurels. In celebration of 30 years of existence, the band has begun a reissue campaign for its major label work, most of which is inexplicably out of print. A reassessment of the Australian quartet’s early LPS is especially useful considering how well it displays the band finding its way toward its signature sound, a swirl of psychedelic rock that contains familiar elements but that sounds like no one but the church. The reissues also include bonus tracks, plus historical liner notes from guitarist Marty Willson-Piper.

Fans who entered the Church following the international success of its fifth album Starfishand its career-defining hit single “Under the Milky Way” might be surprised by the forthright sound of the band’s debut album Of Skins and Heart. The gauzy psychedelia for which the group would become known appears only in hints and glimmers here. Instead the band – bassist/singer/songwriter Steve Kilbey, guitarists Peter Koppes and Piper and drummerNick Ward – boasts a rocking sound that’s more in line with the rising tide of new wave. It sounds like a young band with talent to burn eager to get its ideas down on vinyl as quickly and energetically as possible.

The snarling postpunker “Fighter Pilot…Korean War,” the straightforward ballad “Don’t Open the Door to Strangers” and the bombastic “Memories in Future Tense” sound very different from the band with which most people would become familiar – the guitars are much more muscular and less pretty. Kilbey had not yet found his style as a vocalist, pushing his natural croon into an urgent yelp influenced by his 70s glam rock heroes. It mostly fits but he occasionally sounds like he’s straining beyond his comfort zone. Sprightly pop rockers like “She Never Said,” “For a Moment We’re Strangers,” “Chrome Injury” (which is marred by a dated electronic percussion thwack) and the Australian hit “The Unguarded Moment” show some of the group’s hallmarks – the uncommon chemistry between Koppes and Willson-Piper’s axes, Kilbey’s enigmatic lyrics – but also have a stripped down, propulsive power folks rarely associate with the band now. The leisurely epic “Is This Where You Live” and the jangling “Bel-Air” give hints of what was to come, but overall Of Skins and Heart sounds like the work of a different band than the church we all know – though quite a good band, to be sure.

This edition comes with a pair of B-sides as bonus tracks, and, not uncommonly for bands of this era, they’re both as good as anything else on the main record. “Busdriver” achieves a jagged, melodic drive very familiar to fans of today’s neo-new wave crop, while “In a Heartbeat” mixes an almost strident wash of chords, soaring lead guitar and a particularly catchy melody into a near-classic that the band should consider reviving. Indeed, it would be interesting to hear how the mature, experienced Church would handle these songs today. Even if little here sounds like the church we all know and adore, Of Skins and Heart is still a strong debut by a band full of ideas that would be more fully developed as its career progressed.” – Michael Toland

19 November 2010

Slicing Up Eyeballs article – Sept 30th, 2010


The Church reissuing first 8 albums, touring Australia to mark 30th anniversary

To mark its 30th anniversary, Australia’s The Church this fall will embark on a major reissue campaign, releasing digitally remastered editions of its first eight studio albums — 1981’s Of Skins and Heart through 1994’s Sometime Anywhere — along with four early EPs and a new 2CD singles compilation.

Those releases come as the band this week announced it will take its “An Intimate Space” 30th anniversary acoustic tour — which hit the U.S. last April and March — across Australia in November and December; the 11-date tour opens Nov. 25 on the Sunshine Coast and wraps up Dec. 19 in Melbourne (Editors note: updated 19/11/10).

As for the forthcoming reissues on Second Motion Records, the first pair — Of Skin and Hearts and 1982’s The Blurred Crusade — are due out Oct. 19. Each are single-disc releases packaged in “vinyl-style soft-pack” sleeves with 12-page booklets filled with photos, lyrics and new liner notes by guitarist Marty Willson-Piper.

Those first two reissues each have two bonus tracks tacked on — significantly less extra material than was included on the 2002 double-disc reissues. While the product description for Of Skin and Hearts on Amazon.com describes that reissue’s extra songs as “never-before released tracks,” that’s not true: “In a Heartbeat” was the B-side to debut single “She Never Said,” and appears on the compilation Hindsight 1980-1987, while “Busdriver” was the B-side on the “This Unguarded Moment” 7-inch.

As for the Blurred Crusade reissue, that album features as bonus tracks “Life Speeds Up,” the B-side to “Almost With You,” and “The Golden Dawn,” the B-side to “When You Were Mine”; both tracks also appear on the Hindsight compilation.

Neither the Church nor Second Motion have announced a release schedule for the reissues, but Amazon.com shows a reissue of 1983’s Seance set for release Nov. 16. The other albums due for reissue, according to Second Motion, are Heyday (1986), Starfish (1988), Gold Afternoon Fix (1990), Priest=Aura (1992) and Sometime Anywhere.

Also due out at some point: reissues of the Tear It All Away (1981) Singsongs (1982), Remote Luxury (1983) and Persia (1984) EPs, plus there will be a “definitive singles collection” that spans “the band’s entire 30-year career from their first single to their latest, “Operetta,” off 2009’s critically acclaimed album Untitled #23.” No tracklist has yet been announced.”

Editors Note: The Best of the Radio Songs tracklist as follows :

1. the unguarded moment
2. tear it all away
3. almost with you
4. electric lash
5. constant in opal
6. tantalized
7. under the milky way
8. reptile (single version)
9. metropolis
10.ripple (single version)
13.louisiana (single version)
15.don’t you fall
16.easy (sliced mix)
17.deadman’s hand

19 November 2010

Rolling Stone – David Fricke’s Picks: High Holy Daze

Fricke’s Picks: High Holy Daze

Aug 8, 2009

“Please check the contents of your head,” singer-bassist Steve Kilbey of the Church announced in his slow-rolling-wave baritone during the Australian band’s New York gig on July 8th. “Items may have shifted during flight.” Only for the better. For nearly 30 years, the Church’s heavenly-treble raptures – driven by charter guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper – have been one of rock’s most dependable and still-evolving trips. The set list that night captured the constancy and mutation, going deep into the gothic-Byrds peal of 1982’s The Blurred Crusade amid the stately-reverb suspense of “Deadman’s Hand” and the creeping-pop poise of “Pangaea,” both from the new untitled #23 (Second Motion). A hypnotic enigma of measured pace and mounting-ring dynamics, the album is, in fact, the group’s 23rd – a genuine milestone in longevity and psychedelic invention.”

19 November 2010

Express Milwaukee – Untitled #23

My Favourite Albums of 2009 – Evan Rytlewski

“Old dogs can teach themselves new tricks. Thirty years into their career—and 20 years after their brief commercial peak—The Church have recorded one of their most striking albums yet, a genuine psychedelic masterpiece. Untitled #23 retains all The Church’s hallmarks—the warm, effusive melodies; the complex guitar interplay; the surprising tangents—but it strikes a tone distinct from anything else in their discography. The band resists playing to their usual strengths for shimmering guitar-pop or grandiose, surround-sound rock, and instead attempts something less immediate. Untitled #23 is resigned and melancholic, its guitars restrained and its hooks hidden behind a shadowy, psychedelic haze. It’s a Rorschach inkblot of an album, and each listen lends itself to new discoveries and interpretations.” – Dec 11, 2009