Untitled

30 09 2013

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but I have been the admin of the unofficial Church fan page (yay?!) for a few months now. So this means that everything that happens on the page means I get a notification.

On Saturday morning, a link to this page was posted and made for an interesting read. With a band like The Church, there will always be contention and disagreement about which album is best. As was unsurprisingly the overall vibe in the ensuing comments. With some saying “sometimes I feel like I must be listening to some other band all together when I read reviews like that….” and “As we say in Scotland, “Opinions are like bum-holes. Everyone’s got one”” (which I ‘liked’ and put away in the memory bank).

So simply because I can, here is my list of favourite Church albums and opinions that may differ to that of Hoyer.

Number 1: Back With Two Beasts (’05)

I bought this album on the power of the cover image alone; although I saw the red and blue re-issue before I saw the original blue and yellow. This is one of only a few albums that have a cover that does justice to the music with which it’s associated. The striking red and blue of the sky tells you the best time to listen you the album; late in the evening in the summertime. It just doesn’t have the same feel to it at any other time (trust me, I know). But for me though, the stand out songs are actually ‘Snowfaller’, ‘Pantechnicon’ and ‘Ionian Blues’.

Number 2: Untitled #23 (’09)

This album provided me with one of my first memorable moments in live music; the rendition of ‘Pangaea’. One of constant on this album though is the guitar work; it is smooth and silky on every track. But as I have mentioned previously, it also has (for me) a small incorporated story in the second half of the album. Which is why my choice of standout tracks are actually ‘On Angel Street’, ‘Sunken Sun’ and ‘Anchorage’ in that order.

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Number 3: Beside Yourself (’04)

I know this wasn’t included in Hoyer’s list, but it is a collection of songs that constitute an album’s length, so I’m counting it here. From the outset, this album can be taken many different ways. It clearly states that it is mainly consistent of B-sides and outtakes from the recording sessions of the previous album (Forget Yourself), hence the name. So in that respect, you’d be forgiven for expecting something similar in sound. But the cover is an artwork by SK and is a person that appears half male-half female. Hmm… But as with BWTB, it is best sampled during the evening of a summertime. The best tracks are ‘Crash/Ride’ followed by ‘Moodertronic’.

Things I do agree with Hoyer about though include his thoughs on Magician Among The Spirits, except I’d have placed it at number 4 and given a massive mention to ‘The Further Adventures Of The Time Being‘ as the best song on the album closely followed by ‘Afterimage‘ as an fantastic closer.

About the only thing with which I agree with Hoyer is his ranking of Sometime Anywhere and his choice of ‘My Little Problem‘ as a standout song.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.)





Nothing To Do With Dacia

4 02 2013

Good News! (sorry Mr. May)

In an interesting twist of fate, I have recently been asked to write some reviews on a few cds. I’ll now give you a few seconds to have an educated guess as to who the cds are by.

If you said The Church, Marty Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes and The Well, then you are 100% correct. Yes, that is right, I will be writing reviews to be posted on the official website of these artists.

Just one of the albums I will be reviewing.

Just one of the albums I will be reviewing.

So in the following weeks, expect a few links to the website to start popping up here.

Does this mean I’ve made it? Kind of?





Straw Clutcher

15 11 2012

I would just like to start by apologising about not being able to post pictures in last week’s Matchbox Twenty post. It’s at this point that I would make an excuse like ‘maybe WordPress and my camera aren’t compatible’, but it was the same camera taken to Icehouse, and it worked fine then. I really should look at getting a new camera though.

Anyway, I’m clutching at straws for this week’s post, as nothing overly interesting has happened in the news this week. A lot important has happened, but not much interesting. Politicians bought cars at $10,000 under RRP, politicians buy land for x many dollars conveniently ‘not realising’ that it was actually worth so many times x, and a bloke called $BW signs a deal worth $800,000 and wants to be the face of the NRL (disgraceful – ed.).

I won’t be talking about any of that, but instead about something that I have rambled on about so much in the past, and something that I have given ‘mini-lectures’ on in the past few weeks. That’s right, I will be talking about The Church, how much and why I like them (but only because I don’t think I’ve done it here before).

My first taste of things to come

Well, let’s start at the beginning (seems logical – ed.). If anybody ever asks why I like them so much, I have two stories; the first being that I listened to Hindsight (a compilation of theirs with 24 songs from between ’81 and ’87) and never grew sick of it. Eventually I decided to buy an actual album, and the rest, as they say, is history. The second story (and the one that is the true story) is not too different from the first.

The second story takes us all the way back to the end of 2010 (you say that as if it was a long time ago – ed.). I had just finished high school and life was rosy. Then all hell broke loose, basically. I missed out on making it to uni, friends turned on me and to add salt to the wounds, my pop passed away on Christmas eve (and some of my ‘friends’ didn’t believe me). Hardest 2-3 weeks of my life. In this time though, I escaped through music, and it was predominantly The Church I listened to. I did listen to other stuff, but on the whole it was Steve and the gang.

When it came time for my birthday, I thought, bugger it, I’ll go and buy an album. I bought two though, and as is logical, I got the first two; they being “Of Skins and Heart” and “The Blurred Crusade”. If I’m honest, it took me a while to take to OSAH, probably because it was slightly harder edged than Hindsight, but TBC; loved it from the outset. I really liked the concept of the cover art, which was four Knights, each representative of a band member, standing around looking at a brightly coloured bird. I did see an early concept for the cover though, that was each member (as themselves) standing around an empty bird cage.

The Blurred Crusade (’82)

These first two albums took their names from a line of a song contained on each, OSAH came from the song “For A Moment We’re Strangers” and TBC from “You Took”. “You Took” has a funny story for me though, I liked the idea of have just the bass line for a few bars to  open the song, but as for the rest of it, I didn’t like it, but now I love it (that might be due to a bit of bias and favouritism though – ed.).

Going shopping at JB though led me to believe that the band had only ever released 5 albums because they only ever stocked OSAH, TBC, Seance, Starfish and Untitled #23. I thought to myself though, if they’re all in the same type of vein, I’m going to really like them.

Anyway, it was nearing the time that they bought their ‘Future, Past, Perfect’ tour to Waves. I thought that this was going to be awesome, and it was. They performed 34 songs that night and the ticket was $34. This is before you take into consideration that some songs lasted 9 minutes; and the fact that I got to meet Marty Willson-Piper after the show at no extra cost, but my time; and when I say meet, I mean for a good 20 minutes, at least. About the only problem though, was that I only knew one of those songs, “Under the Milky Way”, as I didn’t own any of the albums they performed that night yet.

Haha, it says ‘love’ – ed.

But at the merchandise stall before the show, there were all these other albums and EPs I’d never seen before. So I got a bit carried away. Some of the albums that I bought was later described by Marty as being ‘the bent stuff’. I had read about some of their material, but not as much as this, so I was a bit like a kid in a candy store, and chose everything, on how powerful I found the cover image to be, which is why my favourite album of theirs is Back With Two Beasts.

Back With Two Beasts (’05)

But one of the real reasons I like The Church is that they refuse to go away (in a good sense). They last had a major hit in 1988, but have since released more than 10 albums, and more then they lead on, EPs (of which I have most). So, they really are in the business for passion and love of the job. But the other reason that I like them is that they are so versatile. Steve does the bulk of the singing, but Marty does lead vocals every now and then, as does Peter Koppes. How many other bands have more than one lead singer, and I don’t just mean for one song. Kyle Cook sung for Matchbox Twenty last week, but that was the first, and thus far, only song that he has taken the reins, and it took five albums. Marty had lead vocals on TBC when he sung “Field of Mars”. Iva Davis has been the only constant in Icehouse, so only one lead vocalist there. I know there for a while Pink Floyd had two singers happening, but not many others spring to mind, but if there are, feel free to leave a comment and make me eat my words.

The Church has evolved and changed, their 3 decades of existence all sound different. Listen to Starfish for example, then listen to Forget Yourself, and tell me which is from the ‘80s. They also cover all the different moods and emotions that you could possibly feel. They released a song called ‘Paradox’ in ’92, and it’s amazing the number of ‘friends’ that I can apply this song to. Actually, come to think of it, that whole album, Priest=Aura, has a bunch of stinging lines that could be used against others if you’re in a crap mood.

The book that cost $3.13 per page (including blank pages) – ed.

If you have read this far, you might think that I am a diehard (especially given I recently paid $250 for a book of poetry by Steve); but no, I am not, as a diehard would like, if not love, everything that the band ever released, and I don’t. This song, for example, I hate it; and if I never heard it again I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep.  In fact, if it weren’t for ‘My Little Problem’, that whole album, Sometime Anywhere, is shit, in my opinion anyway.

Sometime Anywhere (’94)

Also, they have cover heaps of different types of albums. Just the other day, I was thinking to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if they did an album of just instrumentals?’ I then realised that in a way, they already have. In ’98 they did an album called ‘Bastard Universe’ which was a 70 jam session, and in ’03 they did another called ‘Jammed’. But they have also done acoustic reimagining’s of their earlier work in El Momento Descuidado (which is Spanish for ‘The Unguarded Moment’) and El Momento Siguiente (Spanish for ‘The Following Moment’). ‘Shriek’ was a soundtrack to the book (no that’s not a typo, as weird as it sounds – ed.) of the same title written by Jeff Vander Meer. Given I haven’t read the book; it’s a very strange album to listen to. In ’99 they even released an album of covers, A Box of Birds, to show off their inspirations. This is another reason why I’m not a die hard, because “Silver Machine” (of which there is no YouTube clip) is crap with a capital C.

So there are some of the many reasons that I like The Church so much. At this point I should admit to the title of this post being inspired by one of their songs, “Youth Worshipper”. Sing ‘Straw Clutcher’ instead (not as catchy is it? – ed.)

PS- Not all the reviews of albums were available with extensive opinions and ratings hence why some have no hyper-link