Unorthodox Records – [Release date: 27 .10.17]
Back in the day – and the day was the mid eighties to early nineties – The Church became my favourite band following the release of a series of fabulous albums that, despite being under the radar of most critics and getting very little airplay outside their native Australia, found their way into my inner self.
From 1982’s ‘The Blurred Crusade’ – which established their widescreen template of expansive, off-kilter lyrics set against the most wonderful chiming guitar backdrops – through ‘Heyday’, ‘Gold Afternoon Fix’ and the truly outstanding ‘Starfish’ (still to this day one of my top five albums ever) the band built up a sizeable cult following.
Following 1990’s ‘Gold Afternoon Fix’ the quality control became somewhat patchy with the off-kilter psych content burgeoning at the expense of Marty Wilson-Piper’s 12 string Rickenbacker guitar atmospherics.
Despite this fall-off there were still plenty of moments of magic with a run of great albums – the acoustic reworkings of Church classics ‘El Momento Descuidado’ and ‘El Momento Siguiente’ and the exceptional ‘Uninvited Like The Clouds’ from 2006 all hit the spot.
So now we arrive at album number twenty six (!) with a new guitarist, Ian Haug (drafted in from Powderfinger to replace Marty W-P) plus original guitar/keyboardist Peter Koppes, Tim Powles (drums) and the band’s founding father and keeper of the flame Steve Kilbey.
And the great news is that The Church are back with their classic sound and MWLDI is right up there with their finest albums.
The ten tracks get underway with ‘Another Country’ all chiming arpeggios and understated, languid vocals which will have every Church fan punching the air – ‘they’re back, godammit, they’re back!’
Things move on with the somewhat electronic ‘Submarine’ and the fabulous ‘For King Knife’ with Haug’s wonderfully understated guitar riff giving the impression that Marty’s in the room – replacing the irreplaceable.
‘Undersea’ has that other-worldly sound that the Church have always done so well and ‘Before The Deluge’ has more of that chorus pedal in full effect replete with a special dose of Kilbey’s stream-of-conciousness lyrics.
There’s a run of three tracks ‘A Face In A Film’, ‘In Your Fog’ and ‘Something Out There Is Wrong’ which, whilst still good, rather up the weirdness quotient, but this is forgiven and redeemed with the classic Church sweep of album closer “Dark Waltz’’.
For Church fans this is an absolute must. Many lamented the departure of Marty Wilson-Piper but Ian Haug has stepped out of his shadow with aplomb and Steve Kilbey’s writing has stepped up a notch from recent outings – bringing back that wonderful atmospheric sound that made us fall in love with them all those years ago.
It gets better with every play and is without doubt their finest for some time.
Even though they haven’t been away, it’s good to have them back. *****
Review by Alan Jones
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