That’s Not Gone Well

14 02 2013

As you may have read in the previous post, I was asked to write some reviews. And I have. But only one has been posted (annoyingly). Oh well, what can you do?

(Not long enough – ed.)

Fine, so what I’ll do instead is just post here what I wrote. Admittedly, I don’t have the best experience with writing reviews, so some may have appeared disjointed and scrambled at times, but everybody has to start somewhere right?

Admittedly though, the most annoying thing is that 1 review got published, but it wasn’t even the one that received 4+ stars, so I can’t figure out what doing. To top it all off, I’m not getting any replies to my concerns; and trust me, I have a few contacts where it counts (and he’s not just talking about at the optometrists either – ed.)

Water Rites (’95)

The_Well_-_Water_Rites__34199.1328241628.1280.1280

Water Rites was released in ’95 and is a fantastically atmospheric album. Some of the sounds that emanate from the speakers will leave you spellbound, but it’s at this point that I ask you to turn away if you are a big fan of either this album or Koppes.

Be it a combination of Peter’s singing style and the production techniques used, some of the lyrics are hard to decipher without the assistance of the lyrics sheet in front of you. About the only reason that I can think of why it may have been released in such a way is to add an element of mystic to the songs (which in the company that Peter’s kept over the years, is highly likely).

Once you get over this slight hic-cup though, some of the songs are quite catchy, particularly ‘Finest Hour’ and ‘House Afire’.

‘Arabia’ and ‘Spirit March’ have an almost militaristic feel to them with a constant driving beat from the start that doesn’t let up at any time.

The cover art is very obscure. The image appears to be that of an underground sewer of sorts, going along with the images of the band name and album title, but the band’s name is presented on what is looks to be a tile mosaic that is brightly coloured, contradicting the nature of the picture.

This album also sees Richard Ploog filling the drummers stool once again, after his departure from the Church in 1990. Anthony Smith who played on Icehouse’s debut album in 1980 also contributes with keyboards and backing vocals.

Over all the album is decent, but it is far from what could be called great. It is however one of those albums that grows on you with time. If I had written this after just one listen, I’d have given it 2 stars, but it’s worked its way into my head and heart enough to earn it that extra star.

Untitled #23 (’09)

the20church20-20untitled23

Untitled #23 is one of the best albums The Church has put out in their 30 year existence.

I don’t know what the cover image is representative of, but the fact that it adds a touch of enigma to what lies within is always a good thing.

The guitar work that is present on tracks like ‘ Cobalt Blue’, ‘Pangaea’, ‘Sunken Suns’ and ‘Anchorage’, while not the most flashy of works ever recorded but the group, certainly is the most graceful. Once you get to know the aforementioned songs, you will enjoy the instrumentation as much as you will the lyrics.

‘On Angel Street’ is a standout track on this album for its simplicity. There is not much other than a few changing chords and the occasional sprawling guitar to be heard, be Steve’s vocal is what nails this song to your brain and will have you craving for more.

‘On Angel Street’ is also the first in what I believe to be the best trifecta of songs on a Church album. This teamed with ‘Sunken Suns’ and ‘Anchorage’ is perfection.

‘OAS’ sees the protagonist talk in a melancholic fashion about loss and seeing an ex lover.

‘SS’ is a laid back slice of heaven. It is a song that has the persona longing for freedom and escape. They do eventually get away, as witnessed in the lyric “I ripped up my return ticket/ And hurled it into the sky”.

Finally, ‘Anchorage’ sees a return to the melancholic talking about what could be read as a lust for a former lover.  “Strength of a lamb/ The shape of a cloud/ The eyes of the star/ Cruelty of a crowd”.

After returning from their holiday in ‘SS’, the protagonist realises that no matter how they try to get away or change, they will always have feelings for that one person. “Darkness returning/ My torch keeps on burning for you/ In the life you keep on spurning/ Everything is hurting me”.

These three songs back to back sound like they could be the catalyst for a heart stings tugging movie. Follow this with ‘Lunar’ and ‘Operetta’ and you have the finest second half to an album you could possibly get.

Live From The Other Side (’03)

MWPLFTOS

Live From The Other Side is a live recording from 2003, so ten years ago now. Recorded at the Sandringham Hotel in Newtown, it is just Marty Willson-Piper and his guitar performing a full acoustic show.

Contained on the cd are 22 tracks from his solo career and some from The Church’s back catalogue. Interestingly, there are also two poems that Marty reads out; one by Alexander Blok and another by Federico Garcia Lorca.

One thing that the listener can note is Marty’s time keeping by vocal output between lines, particularly on tracks ‘Chromium’, ‘My Museum’ and ‘You Whisper’. By doing this, it adds a childish vibe to the performance, as it seems slightly unprofessional; but in all honesty, it gives a bit of character to the show as he doesn’t do it often enough for it to be described as ‘overkill’.

Interaction with the audience is very minimal here, but to take The Church ethos, he lets the music do the talking.

During the performance of ‘Can’t Ever Risk an Openness with You’, the singing drops right off and becomes hard to hear. This is only annoying because of the hard playing that immediately ensues.

‘She’s King’ has arguably the best vocal performance of all, especially towards the ends of the track, with Marty seemingly leaving nothing in the tank.

Because it is just Marty with his guitar, the album has a very warm feeling to it; it would be good company in front of a fire on a cold winter’s night. The 70 minutes fly by and before you know it, you find yourself calling out for an encore.

As much as Marty’s work with the Church is enjoyable, this is the best way to listen to him, on his own with no background noise. If you aren’t already acquainted with the works of Marty Willson-Piper, this album will serve as the best possible introduction.

Honey Mink Forever (’11)

Noctorum

Honey Mink Forever is the 2011 collaboration between Dare Mason and Marty Willson-Piper. It is also an amazing album.

The cover art looks as though it could be a piece of contemporary art within itself; and I suppose it is just that. It has two decorative skulls with sunken eyes as the main focus. Despite how unlikely this sounds, it has an eternal warmth to it which perfectly embodies the music that is to come.

I’m afraid to say that I don’t think I got the best possible experience out of the opening track ‘False Flag’; but that’s only because my stereo is nearly 15 years old and because of my living conditions, I’m not allowed to turn it up (neighbours, parents; usual deal). ‘False Flag’ sounds like only a surround sound system turned up high will do it justice. It absolutely exudes power from start to finish. It is very much driven by the guitars and piano that lay the perfect platform for which the heavy vocals come on.

‘Better Hope You’re Not Alone’ sounds as though it wouldn’t be out of place on commercial radio. The riff is as sharp as a knife and the singing chilling. The riff will crawl its way into your head and will take up residency there for quite some time.

‘Cry’ is a slow moving ballad that shows a soft side that has the ability to melt even the coldest of hearts. You can easily amuse yourself with this song by trying to imagine a bearded Marty sitting at his grand piano singing this just for that special someone. This really is a track that is better suited to a Michael Buble or Harry Conick Jr.; but Marty nails it. He doesn’t hit any unbelievably high notes, but the delivery is just sublime and is topped off with some smooth guitar work. This track shows Marty’s development and maturity as a singer. While his trademark song might be ‘Spark’, this shows just how capable he is. Some of the guitar work also sounds as though it wouldn’t be out of place in a Rod Stewart song.

‘Bad Dreams’ opens with the beauty of Marty’s vocal almost unaccompanied except for a few choice strummed guitar chords. It can also make you feel quite guilty if you are in the right situation. The final four verses will have you tapping your foot every time despite the theme of missed opportunity and regret. It really does sound as though it would do well on commercial radio; but it’s sung by a 50 y.o. that not many people remember, not Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty (Thomas is one person who could pulls this type of song off well).

‘Tora Tora Tora’ was a bit cheesy for my liking; it’s about the only down point on the entire album. There is, however one unpredictable element in it which might peak your attention on the first few listens. Although, in saying that, it is annoyingly catchy. I want to dislike this song, but I keep singing it.

Because of his Rock ‘n’ Roll roots, it’s not surprising that Marty takes on another hard rocking song before the final curtain falls on this album. ‘Mao Tse Tung Kiss’ is exactly that rock piece. The disappointing thing, for the sake of the album at least, is that the song isn’t required. It doesn’t belong here, and that’s why it falls down and ruins what could otherwise have been a perfect album.

‘The New Scientist’ is another instrumental that closes the album. It’s an interesting closer for no other reason than because it attempts to merge both jazz and rock influences into the one song; thus making intriguing.

Overall, Honey Mink Forever is a wonderful album that could one day be used as a tribute of both Willson-Piper and Mason and their imprint on the music world. Quite a few of the songs sound as though they could fall into the hands of other artist like a gift from above. But because Noctorum doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of say a Stewart or Matchbox Twenty, it will remain forever anonymous except to those in the know.

Uninvited, Like The Clouds (’06)

http://merch.thechurchband.net/uninvited-like-the-clouds

P.S. I did write more reviews than just this lot, but because I wrote them on spur of the moment, I didn’t write them out in word beforehand, thus I have no proof until the time that they get published (and you’re just too lazy to write a new one out for all the nice people here – ed.)

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