Friday, September 16, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 240 The Church - Priest = Aura

By: March

Album – Priest = Aura
Artist – The Church
Key Players – Peter Koppes - guitar, Jay Dee Daugherty - drums, Marty Willson-Piper - guitar, Steven Kilbey – bass and lead vocals.
Produced By – The Church and Gavin MacKillop

Release Date – March 10, 1992

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I will admit I am a casual at best fan of The Church. It seems what I like, I like, but I had never really explored their catalog. They released a few records I'd buy one, they'd release a few more I'd buy another. Just felt it was time to give this the old “front to back”

Overview – This is the eighth studio album from Australia based band “The Church”. Formed in 1980 Marty Wilson-Piper, Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes have remained members to this day. Blending alternative rock, new wave and tosses of psychedelia the band have had their ups and downs in the US. Widely known for their 1988 album “Starfish” (Under the Milky Way is on this record) the band has struggled to gain further commercial success. This particular album, rumored to have been fueled by opiate use, would take the band in a new direction. They'd record the longest album to this point, with many songs over 6 minutes in length. It would be released to a mixed reception. Koppes would leave the band for a while as well. Things would get “better” with the three by 1998 and in 2010 the band were inducted to the ARIA Hall of Fame in Sydney Australia.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - “Aura” starts off the record with lush keyboard sound scapes slowly building before Daugherty rolls across the kit and everyone comes in. Kilbey sings in a deep baritone and keeps his bass line groove locked in. The guitars from Wilson-Piper and Koppes are strong, but are quick and allow for the vocals to be sung without much tension from the band. Hushed backing vocals add to the dark feel and Daugherty hits the drums with just that right amount to push things. Wilson-Piper and Koppes do a nice job backing off one another on guitar. Musically the band is tight knit, a trend that will last the record. “Ripple” begins with a single guitar repeating a riff before the vocals start. Kilbey has a unique voice, its very deep and he doesn't seem to push, or want to push himself, but it is perfect within the context of the songs. The full band comes in and the song is a little more uptempo than the opener, but it is not really “rocking” track. Still, the backing vocals, the layers and texture of the track are very cool, offering the listener a series of directions to follow, none which would be wrong. If you like bass, its there, drums, sure thing, you get my drift? Lush guitars once more shimmer at the start of “Paradox”. This track has more work with the backing vocals and the call and response, but its not campy. At this point the listener will either love, or be bored with Kilbey's vocals. They continue to be deep baritone with just that right push, never really going out of control, or of context of the song. Percussive instruments and then a long drum build up get “Lustre” started. Daugherty is a very tight drummer and the production on his drum kit is terrific. From the toms, to cymbal crashes the listener is awash in a great sound. Wilson-Piper and Koppes are no slouches either. The guitars continue on “Swan Lake” a track that feels a little slow(er) than other tracks so far on the record. We haven't really taken off. The band wants you to listen to the words, to experience the music and its hard to focus on other things when the song plays. Daugherty starts things on “Feel” with a simple tempo and Wilson-Piper and Koppes on guitar ringing over one another. Kilbey seems to soar a little more over their playing while laying down a complex bass line. This feels like the most uptempo and “catchy” song to this point. The band sounds good when they spread out, and the piano helps. The bass from Kilbey plays nicely off a piano as “Mistress” begins. The guitars are kept in check and are quiet as the song slowly rolls forward. Another strong example of band harmonies on backing vocals as the drums and percussive instruments accent the keyboard fills. “Kings” opens a little more playful and feels a little more “poppy” with the big drum burst after the guitar intro. It feels like it could have (or should have) taken off, but it keeps a steady even pace. Once again the production on the record is great with every instrument clear as if you were in the room. From the simple tambourine shake to the rumbling floor tom you can hear it all. Kilbey has his bass right up as “Dome” gets underway before Wilson-Piper and Koppes compliment him on guitar. Again, the band seems a little hesitant to really take off. It is a pretty song, as many are, you just want them to unload at times. “Witch Hunt” is hardly 2 minutes long, a big change from other tracks and it fades out to “The Disillusionist” which slowly fades up with the guitars and drums. This track stands out as the backing vocals feel the most pushing on the whole record. Almost chanted, and deep (from the gut) this is the most vocally hard hitting track. “Old Flame” goes back to the guitar intro we have become used to. Kilbey is still hushed and the guitars are very low in the mix. It feels very slow overall, a very moody track. Kilbey plucks the bass alone as “Chaos” begins. A single guitar adds on before Daugherty hits the floor toms and he seems to push the song forward. Kilbey sounds strong on the track as the instruments tend to lock in early but provide a solid underbelly. Kilbey and Daugherty seem to work well off each other on this track and towards the middle Daugherty unloads about as much as anyone has heard. The best part is that is was so good they do it all over again. The album concludes with the track “Film”. A slow percussive build as keyboards join in and after a few bars Daugherty hits down and the guitars and bass join in. The track is instrumental and is actually quite good in showing the members talents. A solid album closer.

Where are they now? - The band is still active. All three of the core members still write, record and tour as The Church, but also have released solo albums. Jay Dee Daugherty was brought in prior to this album, coming from Patti Smith's band. He'd stay with the band until 1993.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I've actually never seen the band live.

FDF Overall Take – I don't have a ton of Church albums so its hard for me to really be a judge. As great as the band sounds I waited for them to give me a rocking tune. Sure its pretty, sure Kilbey sounds wonderful as do the others. I know there are thousands of records that rock and thousands that are laid back. The band feels held back at times but long time fans seem to look at this as a real shining moment for the band. It showcases a great cohesiveness for sure. It is not bad, really its pretty darn good, but it is a mood record. You'll put this on late night vs. trying to get a party started that is for sure.

The band official page here.
Tons of info on a Wiki page

I am a big fan of Boston based Music Blogger Bradleys Almanac. Brad hit the show in which the band played this album (and two others in full) he posted to his site. If the links are down I am sure a nice message might have them restored for you. No promises though, but he is one of the good ones. If you start here you will find the "Starfish" set he recorded, the links to the other posts/albums are there too.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Various sources of them playing some of my faves from the record (oh and one studio version)

You can still get the album here.


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