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Boston Globe reviews Starfish concert in Boston Print E-mail
Monday, 13 June 1988

Boston Globe

The Church: Tougher and Tighter

THE CHURCH - in concert at the Paradise Theatre, Friday night.

by Jim Sullivan
Globe Staff

"How you doing?" asked Church leader Steve Kilbey, upon completion of "When
You Were Mine," the band's first song before a packed Paradise crowd last
Friday night. A beat. Then, "Where were you last time we were here?".

Well, Steve, since you brought it up....most people were absent owing to,
oh, a number of reasons. Some had probably never heard or heard of you. But
amongst those who had, a prominent reason might be the string of thoroughly
mediocre albums that your band released since your stunning 1982 US debut,
'The Church', a compilation of tracks culled from your early days and
Australian discs. The record blended a certain detached despair and a
shimmering melodic beauty - not unlike R.E.M. of the period, but no copycat
sound either.

Brilliant as that record was, it became something of an albatross for the
Australian band. For one thing, it sold next to nothing. For another, it set
standards the band just couldn't seem to attain again. Subsequent recordings
sounded like pale imitations, bringing to mind the comment R.E.M.'s Peter
Buck once made about bands that start off with a bang and then fizzle
quickly: Maybe they've only got one good idea.

The Church have broken out of that prison. With 'Starfish', their Arista
debut, the group is back on the boards and their 110 minute Paradise set
revealed a much different sounding, much better band. Mainly, singer-bassist
Kilbey and company (most songs are band compositions) are writing songs with
hooks again - 'Under The Milky Way,' 'North, South, East and West.'
'Destination', 'Spark'. The main change is that the band has toughened up
their sound: If The Church of old was prone to sinking too deeply into their
misery(and moving too often at midtempo), the new Church is cutting through
it with a vengeance (and letting loose with an artful punklike attack).
Misery meets anger, no sulking allowed.

Credit that sound to guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes. The
two are adept at juxtaposing frenzy and calm, a blitzing, snarling lead that
tops a jangling, soothing rhythm. And what a difference a strong melody
makes. Kilbey's chorus in 'Under The Milky Way' - 'wish i knew what you were
looking for / then I'd know what you would find' - rides a melodic wave,
and, thus, connects. It felt great when The Church got to an encore of 'Is
This Where You Live', the only song drawn from that first LP; the exquisite,
extended guitar coda made this seem like their 'Whipping Post'. But what was
especially  rewarding was the fact that this jewel came alongside many
others, was not just the diamond in the rough. Yes there is a good reason to
go back to The Church.
Transcribed by Sue Campbell

Last Updated ( Monday, 14 March 2005 )
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