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  Forget Yourself  
  The Church  
  Cooking Vinyl  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

The Church have been around for over 20 years, and i have been listening to them for 18 of those years. This is, i guesstimate, the 14th Church album i have purchased, although there are some i bought on cassette when i was in high school and have since re-purchased in convenient digital format. If you count solo albums and side projects, well, i probably have purchased about 50 different Church-related releases. That is a lot of stuff!

And the amazing thing is that the band still puts out great stuff, except for a brief while there in the mid-90s when they sort of lost their way. (I blame Peter Koppes and his two-album "retirement"....) Anyway, the point is that ever since the reunion of the full band on 1998's Hologram of Baal they have been releasing exquisite albums. Not many albums, mind you, since this is only their third in 6 years, but they just keep getting better. Hologram of Baal was the best thing they had released since 1992, and then After Everything Now This was even better. And Forget Yourself, well, i know you won't believe me, but this is even better than that. Heck, i think that this release is comparable to their masterpiece Sťance or fan favorite Priest = Aura. There is not a single mis-step; instead, this is the sound of a band that is familiar and comfortable with each other, and still enjoying the very experience of rocking out.

I give much of the credit for The Church's late rejuvenation to the addition of a new permanent drummer (i dunno even know which number drummer he is -- 4? 5 maybe?), Tim Powles, who is also a recording engineer and producer. His drumming is really great on this album, and, since the foundation of good rock music is solid drumming, well, Mr. Powles is laying down a serious groove for Kilbey, Koppes, and Wilson-Piper to play over.

Statistically speaking everyone reading this review has heard The Church at some point. At the very least, you are familiar with their mega-hit, 1988's Under the Milky Way. Given that, the sound of The Church is at least somewhat familiar to everyone. Their vocalist, Steve Kilbey, has a rich baritone, and often half-sings/half-speaks the abstract poetry he calls lyrics. Kilbey also hammers away at his bass, and he's not bad at it (although i would say he is a better vocalist than bassist). Layered in equal importance to Kilbey's voice is the twin guitar attack of Peter Koppes and Marty Wilson-Piper. In a band with two guitarists, you normally say that one plays rhythm and one plays lead. Instead, i think it more appropriate to say that one strums the guitar while the other plays arpeggios. Their combined guitar sound is rather distinct, and i can pretty much recognize a Church song wherever i hear it. Add to that Powles' steady drumming, and that's pretty much The Church Sound. A sound they have been mining for 17 studio albums now. A sound that blends psychedelic, pop, and new wave into one powerful sonic formula.

Okay, well, i guess you know by now that i am a fan. I must say this -- when i first heard Forget Yourself i thought "this is not bad". However, as i have continued to listen to it i like it more and more. And more. This is a stunning album, and it amazes me that a band can work together this long and still sound so fresh, so alive. Why can't R.E.M. or U2 pull this off anymore?

Anyway, there are no bad songs on this disc, but a few stand out more than others.

The album begins with Sealine, which starts with a really distorted guitar. Then suddenly the drums kick in and it becomes a great little pop song with toe-tapping rhythms and nice guitar interplay. This fades into Song in Space, which is as catchy. but rather than being light and echoey like Sealine, this song is noisy and distorted. The drumming is powerful and loud and the guitars grate by. It's noisy and beautiful and fun. Two completely different tunes to start off the album, yet both of them work.

The Theatre and Its Double is notable in that it features one of Kilbey's strongest bass riffs in years with some of the most ethereal and esoteric guitarwork on the album. This is a weird psychedelic song with dark undertones provided by an ominous bass presence. It reminds me of really old Pink Floyd in that "uneasy drug trip" sort of way.

Telepath is one of the best pop songs The Church have done in years. It starts with them all singing harmony like a Beach Boys number or something, which isn't very typical for them but it really works here. The guitar interplay is lovely as well. Koppes plays low, with Wilson-Piper playing a high string of notes that echoes the bass riff. The drumming is good and military sounding as well. This is, perhaps, the best song here, and that's really saying something.

The guitarwork is harsher and more sinister on Lay Low. This is distorted and loud, with truly thundering drumming, and lots of overdriven power-chording. The lyrics seem simple, and the song positively soars on the choruses. This song rocks, as does Nothing Seeker, which features a deep bass line and two very different guitar lines, one a light arpeggio and the other tremoloed distortion. Kilbey's voice is slightly distorted here too, which makes this song a little edgy. It moves along nicely though.

One final standout track is June. This features a positively lovely, yet simple, Kilbey bass riff. The guitars dance and echo around the bass, voice, drums combination in a very nice way that, at brief times, reminds me of the work of Landing. Very cool.

I am terribly impressed with this disc, not the least because it comes so far into their career. The Church may have been making music for a long time, but they are still making good music. How many acts can you say that about? If you have enjoyed their work at any other time in their career, then you need to go get a copy of this. Really.

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