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Reviews of three solo albums: Earthed, Manchild and Myth, Art Attack Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 June 1988

PETER KOPPES - Manchild & Myth



Talk about timing - it's been all of four weeks (as of this scribble) since
Australia's premier psych-popsters the Church scored their first domestic
Top 40 single ("Under The Milky Way") and album (Starfish), a feat that took
a mere eight years, six albums and three record labels to accomplish, and
now, seemingly outta nowhere, come US releases of solo LPs from Church
bassist Steve Kilbey and guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes.
Kinda reminds me of the time Casablanca Records, with fantastic visions of
unprecedented consumer exploitation dancing in their greedy heads,
simultaneously released "solo" stuff by all four members of Kiss, forcing
completists to buy lotsa vinyl while purportedly heralding the arrival of
the fellas as distinct artistes. Of course, the ploy worked - the LPs all
went platinum, and Casa labelfolk probably ate filet mignon instead of
porterhouse for a few months.

But CD-lovin' Rykodisc can't be accused of trying to pull a similar coup -
it just so happens that the guys in the Church are quite a prolific lot.
Unlike the Kiss plats these three records demonstrate, in various degrees,
the individual talent that brought the band this far in the first place.

The most surprising of the bunch is probably Kilbey's Earthed, an all
instrumental excursion that bears little resemblance to last years brilliant
Unearthed. The songs are meant to serve as a soundtrack for the accompanying
book of Kilbey's poetry (76 pages of wandering prose and fragmentary verse
that read like a cryptic dreamlog), but depending on which side of the New
Age fence you're on, the music comes across as either adventurous or
pretentious, with touches of Eastern and African influences and a couple of
tracks that sound like what you'd hear if Eno concocted the incidental music
for a Jacques Cousteau documentary. Lotsa smooth synth musings to sooth the
savage beast, but even the staunchest Churchophiles might find a Kilbey
record without his moaning, sing-speak vocals hard to digest, and his
less-esoteric Unearthed or The Slow Crack are both better examples of what
he can do on his own.

Koppes' Manchild and Myth, on the other hand, might've been better off as an
instrumental disc. There's plenty of ethereal (an over-used adjective re
things Church, but one of those that still describes 'em best) guitarwork
and waterlily melodies, but the plodding, machine generated drum tracks and
Koppes' colourless singing tend to detract from the record's high points.
You might find yourself humming upbeat tunes like "Comes As No Surprise" and
"A Drink From The Cup" as often as your fave cuts from Starfish, but
Manchild & Myth also shows why Koppes has spent the better part of the
Church's near decade behind a six-string while Kilbey has handled most of
the lead vocal chores.

Not so of Willson-Piper's Art Attack, a terrific mix of neo-psychedelic
scion and shimmering acoustic numbers that expose a songwriting talent only
hinted at in the guitarist's solo efforts on previous Church albums. Stuff
like the spiteful "Evil Queen of England" and the Meddle-era-Floyd-like "The
Lantern" (one of six songs from W-P's previous LP In Reflection included
here) leave me hoping Marty has even more involvement in future Church
outings. There are a couple of songs here that aren't much more than
filler - most notably the eight minute plus "Word", which consists entirely
of a series of words enveloped in a battery of special effects - but the
overall result is bound to leave ya grinnin', and if you've worn out the
grooves on all your Church LP's this is a fine place to turn.

Steve Peters
Transcribed by Matt
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