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Toby Creswell reviews a Gold Afternoon Fix show in Sydney Print E-mail
Saturday, 07 April 1990
Solid Gold Fix
The Church, Enmore Theatre Sydney
April 7 1990

By Toby Creswell

On the face of it The Church are still doing what they've always done; vague
mysticism and guitar arpeggios.  However, there is a refinement in their work 
which has been so gradual as to be almost imperceptible but which has given
them a power and a backbone.  On the basis of their current disc, Gold 
Afternoon Fix and their two night stand at the Enmore, it seems that The
Church are really hitting their stride as musicians and as stylists.

The first thing one notices about current Church songs is the sense of 
alienation which underlines almost all their lyrics.  While many of their
earlier songs recounted utopias or fantasies, their current material deals more
or less with scenarios where the protagonist is at odds with the world as we 
know it; either seeking an altered state or, in the case of 'Metropolis', 
another world altogether.

One hesitates to fit frames onto the group but their music echoes the argument.
  The dual guitar attack of Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper is rich with
melody but at the same time has a bitter sting which suggests a kind of unease.

The "Sixties" tag has never really fitted The Church and it does so less now
than ever.  The Church is a band which expresses a Nineties despair through
the instruments of the Sixties.  Their sentiments, their mood, is one of 
weariness and in concert that comes to the fore, pushed by the extra energy of
a performance.  This was perhaps nowhere more evident than on "Hotel Womb" 
where the lush lines from Willson-Piper were underscored by Koppes' hard,
insistent and very definitely modern rhythm playing to the point where the 
group had an almost industrial sound.

A combination of a theatre environment and their obvious mastery of their 
instruments gives a sense of authority to the songs that is sometimes obscured
on record.  Their new album has a more rock & roll sound to it, within the 
sometimes meandering arrangements but combined with the presence of new drummer
Jay Dee Daugherty, the band was tougher than I'd ever heard them.  

Daugherty was of course Patti Smith's drummer and in acknowledgement of that 
connection, Celibate Rifles' Damien Lovelock was drafted on stage for a version
of Patti's "Dancing Barefoot."  For the most part though the band indulged 
themselves, playing mostly newish material and avoiding the early hits.  Indeed
they became almost obsessive in mining their sound with Willson-Piper
displaying some extraordinary line between control and excess with his 
Rickenbacker and Koppes holding a hard and incisive edge on the other side of 
the stage.  In the middle, singer Steve Kilbey was uncharacteristically relaxed
and loose with his stage patter but his bass playing slotted into a grovve 
that held the group tighter than their sloppy reputation would suggest.

Kilbey's vocals, and he sang the great proportion of the material, was more
emotional than it sounds on record, and a little warmer.  But one got the 
impression that this was a show by a band, rather than an exercise in playing
hits to the punters.

At the end of a relatively long set that included obscure gems like "Don't Look
Back" and "An Interlude" from The Blurred Crusade and the platinum selling
"Under The Milky Way" one felt that here was a group who had reconciled 
themselves to their identity and decided to go full-bore into exploring the
nether reaches of that.  Here was a group who was more punk than pop and who
were able to push it to the limit.
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