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Consumables Online reviews Box of Birds Print E-mail
Monday, 23 August 1999
Found in an online archive at http://www.westnet.com/consumable/1999/08.23/c990823.txt  Consumables Online is now closed, but their web site is still there at http://www.westnet.com/consumable/  REVIEW: The Church, _A Box of Birds_ (Thirsty Ear)
- Chris Hill
Interesting move on the Church's part, releasing an album of
ten favorite covers. It could have been campy or calculated, but instead
the album compliments a band nearing its third decade and showing no
signs of becoming stale. There's a paradoxical breath of fresh air
coming from the vaults opened herein.
The ten tracks on _A Box of Birds_ are expanded from two cuts
intended for fanclub-only release through the Church fanzine NSEW (named
for "North, South, East and West" off _Starfish_). The Church have always
done well by their fans: NSEW released "White Star Line" and "Gypsy
Stomp," two outakes from '96's _Magician Among the Spirits_, as a
fanclub-only CD single. Limited edition bonus CDs have accompanied
several of their albums. And the coup de grace -- the eight cover
concepts in the front booklet of _A Box of Birds_ were chosen from
many dozens submitted to Shadow Cabinet, the Church website
( http://church.tristesse.com ). Refold the booklet, and voila!, the
disc has a different cover and a different fan's vision graces a Church
album.
But not only does it look pretty, the music dazzles, as well.
The second track, the Beatles' "It's All Too Much," begins with a fuzzed
wash of guitar, Tim Powles drops in with the drums and the song is racing
down the track. Handclaps kick in, followed shortly by Steve Kilbey's
warm vocals.  "Floating down the sea of time/From life to life with
me.../Show me that I'm everywhere/And get me home for tea": George
Harrison's lyrics fit the Church's penchant for complex, psychedelic, 
stream-of-consciousness writing like a glove. And, just for perversity,
Kilbey throws in a few lyrics from Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" as
the song winds down.
Neil Young's brilliant "Cortez the Killer," many a band's
concert staple, closes the disc. An epic 11:08, it's given a reverential
and luscious treatment, with Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper forming
a potent guitar duo. The song choice again feels natural -- the lyrics
carry the same story quality as _Priest = Aura_'s "Dome" or _Sometime
Anywhere_'s "Loveblind." Really, any of the songs on _A Box of Birds_
provide grist for conjecture as to why they were chosen: lyrics? music?
artist? some intangible?
Regardless of origin, there's no irony involved in the
performances. Steve manages an vocal intensity that's absent in the
poised original of Ultravox's "Hiroshima Mon Amour," and again on David
Bowie's "All the Young Dudes." Steve and Marty trade lead vocals,
foregoing the backing female vox of Bowie's song, while maintaining
other classic qualities: the ad-libbed shouts as the song trails off,
the guitar riffs that line its walls.
With Television's "Friction," Kilbey's voice echoes and
emphasizes Tom Verlaine's wordplay with vim. Later, the band tears into
Hawkwind's "Silver Machine," capturing and expanding the Rocky Horror
Picture Show "Time Warp" guitar riffs buried in the original, for a
brilliant reinterpretation.
The other four covers: the Monkees' "Porpoise Song" (written by
Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and sung by Micky Dolenz), Kevin Ayers'
"Decadence," Alex Harvey's "The Faith Healer," and Iggy Pop's "The
Endless Sea."
Fan of the originals or the Church should check this CD out. _A
Box of Birds_ has something wonderful in store for both.
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