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The Church

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Album Review

Signing to Arista might have seemed an unusual move to start with, and getting produced by L.A. studio types like Waddy Wachtel even more so. But for the Church the rewards were great — if sometimes too clean around the corners in comparison to the song-for-song masterpiece Heyday, Starfish set up the band's well-deserved breakthrough in the States. The reason was "Under the Milky Way," still one of the most haunting and elegant songs ever to make the Top 40. As Steve Kilbey details a lyric of emotional distance and atmosphere, the band executes a quietly beautiful — and as is so often the case with the Church, astonishingly well-arranged — song, with mock bagpipes swirling through the mix for extra effect. That wasn't the only strong point on an album with more than a few; the leadoff track "Destination" was as strong an album opener as "Myrrh," if slower paced and much more mysterious, piano blending through the song's steady pace. The rest of the first side has its share of highlights, such as the quietly threatening edge of "Blood Money" and the confident, restrained charge of "North, South, East and West." Marty Willson-Piper gets to lead off the second side with "Spark," a vicious, tight rocker that captures some of the best '60s rock edge and gives it a smart update. Equally strong is Kilbey's "Reptile," with an appropriately snaky guitar line and rhythm punch offset against weirdly soothing keyboards. Peter Koppes has an OK vocal to his credit on "A New Season," but the stronger tracks are Kilbey's other contributions, the strong guitar waltz of "Antenna" (with great guest mandolin from David Lindley) and the closing charge (and very Church-like title) of "Hotel Womb." Performances throughout are at the least fine and at the most fantastic. [The 2011 reissue on Second Motion adds a second disc of single B-sides, outtakes, acoustic performances, and demos. Added up, it's one of the rare second discs that actually contributes to the value of the package. The Church were so good at this point that they had first-rate songs to spare; many of them, like the slow-motion psych ballad "Texas Moon" and the rocking jangler "Frozen and Distant," would have sounded just fine on the actual album. The very candid liner notes from Marty Willson-Piper — sparing no feelings and airing all the dirty laundry — are an added treat.] ~ Ned Raggett & Tim Sendra, Rovi

Customer Reviews

searching for America and can't find it anywhere

This record has The Church at their absolute peak. You can feel their unease and mistrust of L.A. though maybe it brought out the best in them?


Formed: 1980 in Sydney, Australia

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most successful and enduring Australian bands of the post-punk era, the Church began their career with music that paid explicit homage to psychedelia and 1960s folk rock, and with the passage of time they refined their own unique sound, fusing pop, art rock, progressive rock, and other flavors. The Church were formed in Sydney, Australia in 1980 by Steve Kilbey (bass, vocals), Peter Koppes (guitar), and Nick Ward (drums). Kilbey, a former member of the Tactics, had previously played with...
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