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  All I ever wanted to see...was just invisible to me.
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Seance review - Depressing. Print E-mail
Friday, 01 July 1983
This comes from my clippings collection with no identification of the source or date. On the back, however, is a gig guide for July 9 - 21 at various venues. I'm assuming its 1983, since that's when Seance came out.

The Church



In the darkness, our breath sweated. "Are you there?" we queried. The glass moved reluctantly. Yes.

"We want to know about a young Australian band called The Church." A tremor ran through our fingers and our collective VU meter twitched. The glass nudged the letter T, then U.R.G.I.D. "One more question - can I get away with this glib journalistic ploy for the rest of the review?" The glass shattered.

Seance, The Church's third album, partly self-produced, aims at being "haunting" or 'atmospheric", like the visionary Bowie of Hunky Dory days, but rarely succeeds. The thickness of the sound, the repetition, the general inaudibility of the words and the expressionless delivery add up to one long dirge.

Like the Moody Blues, The Church take themselves too seriously. Musically, it's a lot of repetitive '60s guitar figures, with mournful nursery-rhyme melodies of the kind favoured by Donovan or Peter Sarstedt. (Rumour has it that Steve Kilbey was hypnotised for these sessions, in order to impart to his tuneless singing, the right amount of impassivity and monotony. Ditto drummer Richard Ploog, who frequently imitates a tape-loop.) The guitars are constantly, insistently, filling up the sound with arpeggios an strumming , and synthesizer strings or organ mortar up the old wall of sound in a predictable fashion.

Lyrically, it's schoolboy surrealism, dealing with spiritual and psychic impotence and loss of innocence -- the desire to regain the Golden Age in a city of darkness where life stagnates and everyone is a victim ('Everything is moving but we're standing still')  Fly deals with madness, with the cliched 'trapped inside her painted eyes' line; like the rest, it's a repetitious, pentatonic tune with less notes than the One Note Samba.

One Day has a constant, boxy drum figure, hard-edged guitar arpeggios, and a nice guitar solo. Electric is in the same mould but builds into a throbbing I Am The Walrus beat and strident guitar line.

It's No Reason is Puff the Magic Dragon with crashy drums and for once, The Church achieve the "haunting" or whatever they're aiming at, with the high vocal and synth sound on the chorus. Again, Dylan or Bowie's Quicksand appear to be the model.

Travel By Thought is the most adventurous track, with extravagant drumming and thrashing post-Hendrix slash-and-burn guitar and Lost World of Atlantis-type lyrics intoned back in the mix. A bit of a pome, I would say.

Disappear has a neat homage to a Mick Ronson guitar solo at the end and deals with the end of love and helplessness in a judicious use of oxymoron ('ugliness you have to learn but [sic] beauty you can't teach')

Electric Lash is musically banal and lyrically dreamlike -- there are lines like 'Only one thing you ever really know / You might curse before you bless', that remind me of the Old Prophet, Dylan, at his most sonorous and incoherent, as do a lot of Kilbey's images ('envoys', 'messengers','vagabonds') when suggesting the archaic and arcane.

Now I Wonder Why is agentle and dripping with oxymoron. Dropping Names approaches Rock -- the rest of the album is sort of Folk With Loud Drums.

The final track, It Doesn't Change, is a climbing chord sequence that starts as a sacerdotal chant, builds through chiming guitars, to a full-on orchestral-sounding echoing-through-the-crypt coda. Bleak landscapes tortured by invisible winds.

Some of this album is not easy listening and no matter how hopeful some of the lyrics are, all this gothic romanticism sounds mournful to these jaundiced old lugs.


N.D Plume 

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