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Review of Earthed, Nineveh, Ephemeron and Poetry Festival appearance Print E-mail
Saturday, 11 December 2004

Originally published in Retort magazine at http://www.retortmagazine.com/content/11.04/id_review_lort.htm

 

Earthed, Nineveh & Ephemeron
Steve Kilbey

Steve Kilbey is known world over as the singer, songwriter and bass guitarist for the Australian band The Church, which has quietly been producing some of the most distinctive and deeply interwoven music of the past two decades, without all the hype and pop which they so majestically set themselves apart from with their 1981 debut. As Steve Kilbey says,"We do what we want to do musically and don't take too much notice of what's going on around us." The ethereal and worldly lyrics of The Church have since burrowed into the psyche of an entire generation of Oz music fans. Alongside the Church's core output, the ever prolific and talented Steve Kilbey also has an equally challenging and original solo music career and also divides his time as a poet and painter.

Impressed Publishing, a Brisbane based publisher of an eclectic array of beat influenced and cutting edge poets has brought back into print two of Steve Kilbey's much sought after works, Earthed which was first published in 1986 to accompany Steve Kilbey's instrumental solo album of the same name and Nineveh and The Ephemeron which were first published together in 1999, these volumes are all combined into one prodigious volume, with a self-portrait painting of Steve Kilbey on the cover. This is not to be thought of as a compilation of song lyrics and nostalgic black & white back-stage photos, but a collection of prose that as much delves into the human soul as it searches the heavens. The publication of this collection propels Steve Kilbey into the same league as other rock poets of the rank of Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith and Nick Cave.

Earthed, Nineveh & Ephemeron is densely layered with rich resonating meanings and textures tinged in obscure hues. The prose pours out an insightful, profound and unique deliberation over the very subsurface of ourselves, love, existentialism, music and the eternal quests for inspiration, meaning and beauty. It's interlaced themes of arcane, mystical and enchanted otherworldliness, dreams within dreams, forgotten and ragged deities lost amidst sprawling ancient cites compel the pieces to be read and read again. This new collection is certainly a must for any fan of The Church or Australian Poetry.

"The magic is fading from this world, logic and rules replace the spells. The giants are gone. The Elohim no longer look over me and I feel the metallic coldness in the breath of my children. I sit in bed and eat melted chocolate as the sun goes down in the east. The earth is thirsty for love but our greedy fingers bruise her soft skin. Our whispers are abrasive. Noise drowns sound."

-- Steve Kilbey

Earthed begins uncharacteristically with a short, untitled and italicized philosophical manifesto that overlooks the travesty of western civilization, without succumbing to a boring and indulgent chronology of war, environmental destruction and greed. The fundamental and perhaps intangible essence that escapes us and causes our failings, he suggests, is to be found in what is "not earthed," and prose poetry through its unfettered and unmediated simplicity is one such means to bring ourselves out from this high-tech simulated world and bring this spirit back into ourselves.

The Ephemeron is much closer to fiction and is the story of Erskine, the magician who inhabits a menagerie of inexplicable dissipation and perpetual transience. Unlike Earthed as Steve Kilbey suggests, The Ephemeron was written direct from his heart, freed from his overbearing intelligence and aesthetic judgment and for this reason gives us a different perspective, a more intimate insight, a more uninhibited use of language - we are not just seeing what he wants us to see. As a person, Steve Kilbey is a deeply perceptive individual, who is constantly in self critic and not the least bit pretentious, yet slightly disconcerted by the inevitable accusation of a dismissive critic. The aura he exudes is composed of a delicate mix of integrity, warmth and unspoilt majesty. He has a mind which seemingly abounds with stray thoughts, constantly bouncing out in different directions which on occasions he leaves untethered, abounding in a freedom of creativity. This is particularly the case with his solo projects which allow him free reign and a greater creative freedom to spontaneously follow a thread to its end. For poetic inspiration, Steve Kilbey repeatedly refers to the French master of poetic rebellion, Arthur Rimbaud as his guiding muse. Rimbaud infamously called for the "disordering of all the senses" to bring about a delirium of bliss that transcends the self, the ultimate anchor of being, unraveling a visionary transference with the unknown, where the ultimate knowing of self only paradoxically leads to the abandonment of it, where the "I" becomes an other.

Steve Kilbey read at the launch of Earthed, Nineveh &The Ephemeron at the 2004 Queensland Poetry Festival where he also performed a rare acoustic set encompassing solo, collaborative and old and new Church material. Steve Kilbey will be playing as part of The Church at the Zoo in Brisbane on November 20.


Robert Lort
? copyright Robert Lort 2004

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 March 2005 )
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