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
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.
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.