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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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SK and SUSO

23 09 2013

I have been asked to write a review of Saturday night’s performance by Steve Kilbey and the Sydney University Symphoney Orchestra. So here it is:

The venue selected for Saturday’s performance was only appropriate for such a show. The architecture of the Great Hall at Sydney University was to take a trip to a place that a lot of will have seen in movies, but may never have been to for ourselves. There were stain-glass windows (“you should’ve seen them during the day”, lighting man Trevor said), a tall ceiling, busts made out of sandstone, marble statues, angels in the woodwork and an awe inspiring organ above your head as you enter the hall. If Harry Potter had gone to school in Sydney, this is where he would’ve come.

The show, as a concept, was really enjoyable; an orchestra, just under 80 piece big, conducted by George Ellis, playing reinterpretations of songs by Steve Kilbey. All the orchestral arrangements (barring ‘Tear It All Away’) were done by Ellis and included the likes of ‘Grind’, ‘Myrrh’, ‘Everyone’ and (unsurprisingly) ‘Under The Milky Way’, with ‘Space Saviour’ as the encore.

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The orchestra entered the stage via a doorway at the back, as did George after a warm welcome from presenter Scott Bevan. So naturally then, you’d be expecting Steve to make a similar entrance, right? I know I was, which is why it was good to see Steve walking down the aisle of the hall to take his place on stage.

After more than 30 years of performing to live audiences, I don’t know if Steve still gets nervous before or during shows, but for the first half of the night, he didn’t appear comfortable up on stage, he seemed a bit unsettled about something; at least that was the vibe sitting in the front row.

SK (l), George Ellis (c) and guest vocalist Lisa Gibbs (r)

SK (l), George Ellis (c) and guest vocalist Lisa Gibbs (r)

It would be interesting to know what was going through Steve’s mind when he wasn’t singing though, as he didn’t have his bass with him, he didn’t have much room to move. Wearing a suit would’ve made any kind of interpretive dance hard to pull off too, and as a result, Steve just stood there kind of awkwardly and at over times very stiffly. After the intermission though, Steve seemed more relaxed and it was just a shame that the night was over before you knew it.

Due to advertising restrictions in place by Sydney University, the crowd wasn’t large as it could’ve, and should’ve, been, which was the biggest let down of the night. But those who did turn up were treated to a unique show that will not be forgotten any time soon.

*Pictures courtesy of Sharon Daniels





It’s All A Game Of Change

1 07 2013

They say ‘never meet your heroes’; it’ll ruin your built up perception of them. But what do they say to journalism students? ‘Never interview you heroes’? If they do, “Oops”. I was lucky enough to meet Steve Kilbey in Bondi last weekend.

30 years. Kids will tell their parents that that’s a long time. But parents will retort ‘blink and you can miss it you know’. No matter which way you cut it though, a lot will change in that time. 30 years ago there was no such thing as a ‘smart phone’ or an XBOX. And 3D glasses were red and blue cellophane.

30 years ago The Church had only just released their third album, Seance. The cover of which would go on to feature in the third edition of the Album Cover Album coffee table books. “I came home one day and my brother Russell’s girlfriend, who was an art college student, had been mucking around with photography. She’d been out with a friend of hers who’d chucked on a veil and was holding a metal flower”, says lead singer-songwriter-bass player Steve Kilbey. “Not thinking much of it, she threw it on the kitchen table and as soon as I walked in, I went ‘that’s our new album cover’. When I showed it to everybody else, they were like, ‘yes, that’s it’. No argument what so ever”

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In an interview on SBS’s Rock Around The World during the same period, a softly spoken Steve said “I never sit down and think ‘I’m going to write a song for so and so and then approach them’.” This would seem a logical statement. How do you know what another person wants out of the same industry? “I’m not sure why exactly I said that stuff then, but that’s 30 years ago, I don’t know what I was thinking. [Because] I would now”, he says. “If someone asked me to write a song either for them [or] that they’re going to perform, I’m pretty happy to do that”.

But not everything changes in 30 years. Steve is still of the belief that the worst thing you can do is try and understand a song. “The more concrete facts that you know about this abstract thing, the less you will really enjoy it, even though you mightn’t think it at the time”, he says. “It’s like the documentary I made (Long Distance Century Buzzes And Fades). Some people are going ‘I want to see all the footage. If that’s 3 hours, I want to see all 16.’ They think they want to see it, but I’ve actually done them a favour by giving them what they’ve got. Just let it be an intangible, atmospheric, ambiguous thing”.

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With over 3 decades of writing music under his belt, Steve’s creative spark is all but waning. For his most recent album with Martin Kennedy, You Are Everything, Steve wrote the lyrics for all 11 tracks in two days. He even wrote them for ‘A Better Day’ on the spot. “I usually listen to it and write the lyrics in a minute. But in this case, when Martin started the song up, I said ‘is that all it does?’, because it’s just two chords”, Steve recalls. “He said ‘yeah’, and I said ‘alright, I’m not even going to write it down’. So I just grabbed the head phones and sung it”.

This isn’t the first time Steve has done such a thing though. “On solo albums I do that too, so it’s not the first time it’s happened. I often just improvise”, he says. “Grant McLennan (of The Go-Betweens and Jack Frost collaborations) is one stop better than me though. I’ll strum the guitar for a bit before getting the words where he’d strum and make up the words at the same time”, he says, playing an air guitar.

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But you know that 30 years is a long time when Steve says he’s in his 3rd phase. “The mad, energetic uncle”, he says with a laugh. Having arrived via his “heroin stage”, Steve is now more physical during on stage performances than ever before. ‘I only really started getting physical on stage 11 or 12 years ago, and that coincided with me getting hardcore about swimming and yoga’, he says. And with this new lease of life has come an increased workload. While The Church may not have put out any new offerings since 2010, Steve has been a part of 10 albums since then; either as a solo artist or in collaboration.

Apart from the music though, Steve also posts to his blog (The Time Being) daily, and paints or draws too. The normal person would love to be able to have achieved just half of all this in such a short period of time. As one DJ noted in an interview last year, to ‘research [Steve] is overwhelming, there is just so much to pick through’.

But with so much talent and energy, you can’t really fully appreciate what Steve Kilbey is like as a purveyor of art until you witness him at work for yourself. Upon walking into his workspace, a large open room with a low, angled ceiling, Steve is working on another of his drawings. And it’s not that he is detached from the interview, but he certainly has the energy and ability to focus on two tasks at once without being dull. He gives high quality answers that leave you wanting to know more, all while adding more strokes to the portrait he is in the developing stages of.

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It’s not even that long before Steve is bouncing around mocking his on stage performances. And showing a brief excerpt from the recently released documentary, he demonstrates the kind of energy that many people dream of having, let alone when they’re nearing 60.

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Steve’s band The Church have been on numerous different recording labels, and given they haven’t had a recognised hit since the early ‘90s, it’s amazing that they are still around today. What they have gone through would have been enough to break other bands long ago. But their very existence shows that while nothing stays the same forever, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is also why, on a morning that is cold, miserable and drizzling, Steve is the “only person getting up and the first thing I’m thinking is ‘I’ve got to have a swim’”. How many other stars of rock would be thinking that?

*Pictures taken by Kit Q





Corrections

26 05 2013

You might remember that back in February I was asked to write some reviews of albums for The Church’s website. Which I did.

And you might also remember that last week I compiled a top ten best Church songs. Well, as it turns out, that list is wrong. And I know this because I listened to Back With Two Beasts for the first time in a while last night.

As I said in the review of BWTB, it’s the type of album that is memorable on its own, but there are no stand-out songs that you will remember in a few days time after you’ve put it away. And it is for this exact reason that the list I compiled is wrong, BECAUSE I FORGOT ‘IONIAN BLUES’!!!!!!!!!!

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I don’t know how it happened, but this song never crossed my mind for even half a millisecond. But now that I know about/remember it, it instantly becomes the number 1 song, sitting high and mighty atop the list.

I did consider adding an ‘honourable mentions’ section at the end of the list but I decided against this. Now that I’m talking about it though, I may as well.

And I’ll start with the song that made way for ‘Ionian Blues’: the acoustic version of ‘Chromium’. The other mentions go out to ‘One Day’, ‘Reptile’, ‘Tranquility’, ‘LLC’, ‘As You Will’, ‘Moon Hangs In Black’, ‘So Love May Find Us’ and ‘Is This Where You Live?

Can I just say though, it was really hard to compile this list as the band has released over 300 songs and are still going. So knowing my lack of brain cells to do the remembering, there are probably other songs that I’ve forgotten to mention, but to leave ‘Ionian Blues’ out was just unacceptable in every sense of the word. Especially when you consider that (this is where I’m going to feel really, super stupid) I’ve said before, and still say that it is, BWTB is my favourite album of all time.





It Was Coming Eventually

20 05 2013

I have asked on the unofficial Facebook page, but I only asked what they were, because no offence, but the explanation as to why would have gone something like this: “I don’t know why, it just has that something that appeals to me I guess”.

So in this completely unoriginal and totally expected post, I’m going to list my favourite 10 Church songs and why I like them.

Numero Uno: After Everything (2007)

This song is my absolute favourite. I’m talking about the acoustic version though, not the original (clichés will be in abundance from here on, just a heads up – ed.). This song has possibly the most beautiful vocal Steve has ever recorded with the band (he may have done better gone solo, but I’m not interested in that here). It is total melancholy, but that’s what Steve does best, so it’s no surprise. Everything about this song is just wonderful. From the opening strumming, through the stings section and the middle 8; it just falls into place like a jigsaw. I might also like it because I can relate to the words (“I really thought it would go on forever/ I never believed they would sever the ties/ All of the questions remaining unanswered/ Strangers reflection in a strangers eye), but that’s another story.

From here on in the songs are listed in no particular order.

#2, 3 + 4:

To save myself time here, just read this.

#5: My Little Problem (1994)

This song is the only good thing about what is in my view the worst album the band has ever recorded (consider the things that were happening at the time and cut them some slack man (ed.). The song goes for over 7 minute and encapsulates all that is good about the band. It is a confessional about Steve’s drug problem and is amazing given the apparent simplicity of the song compared to previous recordings from the band.

#6: A Month of Sundays (1984)

Again, read this.

#7: Easy (2006)

From the album ‘Uninvited, Like The Clouds’, the title of the song describes what it is to fall in love with it. Even though it doesn’t even hit the 5 minute mark, I was once quoted as saying that it felt like it went forever. I believe that this may have been due to my unfamiliarity with the song at the time and the fact that it doesn’t really have a solo as such.

#8: Life Speeds Up (1982)

B-side to ‘The Unguarded Moment’, this song is a hidden classic, one for the true fan. The song sounds big, an absolute mammoth of a song with what could best be described as a slight American influence in terms of the sound (it was produced by Bob Clearmountain don’t forget – ed.). I know this means bugger all, but is actually a good song to play either air guitar or drums to; so if you want to unwind to a new song, give this a try first.

#9: Chromium (2004)

Again, I’m talking about the acoustic version, not the original. Found on ‘El Momento Descuidado’ this re-imagining has the feel of a ‘Sunday crush’ song. When I listen to it, I see myself sitting in a chair that’s sunken into the sand and the ocean is lapping around my feet. The shadows have grown long and a chill has entered the breeze, but I don’t want to leave. About the only thing missing is that someone I like. Bliss.

#10: Crash/Ride (2004)

The third track from ‘Beside Yourself’, this track is, well, interesting. It starts off with loads of bass (that could just be your stereo settings dude – ed.) and just builds and builds.

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I don’t know if it’s a sad song (and I don’t want to know), but I always feel a little deflated after listening to it.





Fare-de-well

10 05 2013

Why does it hurt just so?

Have you seen the ‘meme’ (I think that’s what you’d refer to it as. I’m no internet geek) where it has a picture of an army soldier cut the wires of a bomb, and down the bottom is the tag line ‘how it feels to text the girl you like’? Yep.

To borrow a line from a tv show I saw one, “I get intimidated by beautiful, successful women”.

Actually, I don’t even know what to call them. I don’t think of myself as an adult, so I don’t think of other people my age as adults either; we’re just mature people (even though I’m 21). So is it wrong to refer to girls my age as just that; ‘Girls’?

Could this be causing my backwards tumble?

I tumbled on some stairs today. Somehow my shoe got caught on something I don’t know what was; must’ve been a tiny little lip or something.

I saw a website article of what celebs looked like before they were famous. I think the whole idea was to list in order of biggest shock or something like that. Well it did start at 15 and count down. Wacko Jacko only came in at #12 though, which was interesting. And Taylor Swift has nice tits (as does Kat Dennings).

Played pool for the first time in nearly 3 months. Lost all 3 games. I got a shellacking in the final 2. I don’t think I sunk a single ball in the last come to think of it. But I was able to launch the ball 4 or 5 times a game; so I never got boxed in.

I also found out that this is quite easy to interpret. Apparently I could make a good carer too. But how do I tell you-know-who?

Cheesy-Bacon chips are nice. Deadly; but nice.

 Ran from my place to the library in 15 minutes this arvo. No idea how impressive that is. It felt impressive though.

But I did let myself down by failing to stick to plan. However, I have reached a conclusion about fast-food. Macca’s makes the best chocolate milkshakes and Chicko’s have the best chips (and the blonde that served me was hot…)

“Birds come flying at the speed of sound/To tell us how it all went down/And if you could see it then you’d understand”

The Sharks were on telly last night; but not until 9:30 so the game was crammed full of ads that the first game wasn’t.

I really got to be happy; but how do I do that living with this stress?

“Nobody said it was easy/Nobody said it was fun/Running around in circles/Coming back to the start”

The Church or Coldplay? I have an emotional attachment to the prior but none the latter; but maybe in a month or two… Someone on YouTube said Coldplay wasn’t like angels singing but kissing your ears. I wonder how that person did at English. Probably the church though. They seem more of a people’s band; actually no. Coldplay just have a bigger fan base atm so can be as personable. And the church are just so damn dynamic.

Thank you. Sorry.





18 Facts About The Church

7 04 2013
  1. The band was named after the line ‘The church of man love’ from the David Bowie song Moonage Daydream
  2. Richard Ploog was NOT the original drummer. That title goes to Nick Ward
  3. The Unguarded Moment’ was not the band’s first hit. That was actually ‘She Never Said
  4. The coloured parts of the heart on Of Skins And Heart have no anatomical significance
  5. The original concept art for The Blurred Crusade was the four band member standing around an empty cage
  6. The cover of Seance was taken by Kim Sanderman (the then girlfriend of Russell Kilbey who contributed harmonica on the album)
  7. The girl on the cover of Seance is ‘Meg’
  8. Kim Sanderman also contributed the cover art of Remote Luxury
  9. Columbus’, while written on the American leg of the tour, was not actually written in Columbus. It was written in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  10. The production team for Starfish was inspired by the bands enjoyment of the Don Henley song ‘Boy of Summer
  11. The name Starfish means absolutely nothing. The band just liked the name. None the less Steve had to write a letter to Arista (the record company they were signed to) to convince them it had a purpose
  12. The drum machine used to replace Ploog on Gold Afternoon Fix was called the Alessis HR-16
  13. Priest = Aura got its name from some miss read Spanish vocab notes. Meeting a fan back stage after a show, Steve (reading it upside down) though the paper said ‘priest = aura’. It actually said ‘priest = cura’
  14. The song ‘Two Place At Once’ was written by Marty and Steve and stitched together. Neither had any knowledge of what the other had written though, hence the title
  15. Hologram of Baal was originally going to be called Hologram of Allah. But the band feared a possible backlash by way of a fatwa
  16. Technically, all members of the current line up have sung lead vocals at some stage. Tim Powles sang ‘Take Your Place’ on the 1997 album pharmakoi/distance crunching honchos with echo units
  17. The song ‘This Is It’ is about INXS front man Michael Hutchence

18.   El Momento Descuidado means ‘The Unguarded Moment’ in Spanish. The band decided to call the album this because of a memory of seeing this as a headline in a Spanish newspaper. El Momento Siguiente means ‘The Following Moment’

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