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Some reviews of the Kilbey biography Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 June 2009

Robert Lurie's book "No Certainty Attached" was released in June 2009 and was the first book to be written about the history of the band.


First, a great review from Publishers Weekly:

No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church: A Biography Robert Dean Lurie. Verse Chorus, $19.95 paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-891241-22-2

Although a self-professed die-hard fan, Lurie remains stridently impartial in this skillfully balanced assessment of his musical idol, Steve Kilbey, the esoterically minded front man for the Australian rock band the Church. Into his noisy myriad of interviews with Kilbey and his circle, Lurie mixes his own personal journey as a fan, musician and first-time author, offering something to both Church devotees and the uninitiated. The result is a quietly and thoughtfully structured narrative that entertains as well as informs. Lurie provides sound musical analysis of the Church’s touchstone albums as well as key Kilbey solo projects. Yet Lurie can also be too much the music critic, as his musical observations occasionally drag the narrative into pedantry. Rather than focusing exclusively on those elements of the biography that are fantastic or controversial, Lurie’s interviews capture quite a bit of Kilbey’s daily life, past and present, and in so doing, open doors to readers who might otherwise not have an interest in a musician with whose music they may only feign familiarity. The nice assemblage of personal photographs printed throughout the text adds an authenticity and completeness to the book. (July)

Next, a beautiful article by Doug Crist in the hometown paper:

Bainbridge Island Review Contributing Writer
Jun 16 2009, 12:25 PM ·

What the church didn’t do for Robert Dean Lurie, the Church did.

Seeing the mystical Australian rock band play for the first time in 1990 was, he believes, his first spiritual experience.

As the band segued from new material to songs from its previous release “Starfish” – the album that had two years earlier, in ways yet to be fully defined, changed the course of his life – he felt something stir in his soul.

“What had been a very good rock show turned into an electric rapture,” Lurie recalls. “This was the type of spiritual communion that eight years of Catholic school had tried – and failed – to elicit from me.

“I understood now why the band was called the Church.”

Lurie, author and 1992 Bainbridge High School graduate, recounts his conversion in the just-published “No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church” (Verse Chorus Press), his first book and the first definitive history of the venerable band and its charismatic-but-contrary singer/bassist.

In lesser hands, it could have been a simple rock and roll biography, filled with cliche tales of troubled genius, rampant ego and hedonistic excess.

But Lurie – as both narrator and participant – also contemplates the blurry line between fandom and idolatry, and that cruel moment when you learn the object of your admiration is great, but not necessarily good.

“At some moments, he is absolutely the wise mystic I had envisioned,” Lurie now says of Kilbey, whom he got to know well over the seven years it took to complete the book. “At other moments he is…not. But he’s mellowed over the past few years and the two sides of him are beginning to fuse.

“I’ve been very lucky to have him in my life.”

Were it not for the brief, unforeseen union between their muse and the public taste in 1988, few outside their native Australia might ever have heard of the Church. But in that moment, the song “Under the Milky Way” wove itself into the world’s pop-cultural tattersall, a psychedelic gyre on a plain of endless squares.

With its ethereal wash of guitars, curious backward-bagpipe solo and wistful lyrics – “wish I knew what you were looking for/might have known what you would find/under the Milky Way tonight” – the song went Top 20 on the American charts and shot the album to gold.

It also left the 14-year-old Lurie – then a devotee of the Beatles and Pink Floyd – transfixed.

“It’s not like my life was bad in any way, but here was a door into a different dimension,” he said. “When I was a kid, I had been obsessed with the British science fiction TV show ‘Doctor Who,’ and Steve – or the image he projected – felt like a character from that show, dispatching these cryptic songs from his time machine.”

Lurie immediately made his mom go out and buy him a guitar. And he spent the rest of his teen years obsessed with the band, transcribing lyrics in private notebooks to divine their hidden meanings.

The Church reached a new creative apex with the hypnotic 1992 album “Priest=Aura,” cementing Kilbey’s skills as a fabulist and guitarists Peter Koppes’ and Marty Willson-Piper’s penchant for tapestries of sonic wonder. But the album failed commercially; the public had by then moved on to “grunge.”

Not so Robert Lurie, who, as the band receded into obscurity, gladly followed along with a coterie of fellow acolytes who coalesced online. Still playing the guitar and inspired by the Church’s oeuvre, Lurie even talked his way into the opening spot for a Kilbey solo gig in London in 1998.

Their meeting was not auspicious – student was star-struck and obtuse, master icy and aloof. The awkwardness was compounded by Lurie’s disillusionment upon learning that his idol was a heroin addict.

“Given this disheartening experience, I asked myself a tough question: What exactly did I want from Steve?” Lurie writes. “I had no answer.”

Church history

Five years later, as Lurie was completing his MFA in creative writing at the University of North Carolina – wondering “what the hell can I write 300 pages about?” for a thesis – the answer came.

He wrote to Steve Kilbey, announcing his intention to write his biography and requesting an interview. The singer’s terse response:

“OK. I’ll give you a couple hours. In July. If you get here.”

And so in July 2003, having maxed out his credit cards, Lurie flew to Sydney, Australia, and showed up on Kilbey’s doorstep.

The “couple hours” the singer had promised stretched into numerous interviews and an uneasy friendship. Lurie also spoke with Kilbey’s family, bandmates and the obligatory former drummer, and spent the balance of his time walking the Sydney streets in contemplative solitude.

Despite the headiness of the adventure, it was, he concedes, a lonely month; he almost abandoned the project and flew home.

But later, with perseverance and the help of his advisors and editors, his book began to take shape.

The richly researched “No Certainty Attached” traces Kilbey’s early years and the Church’s genesis as a band in 1980; to its brief flirtation with international fame ca. “Milky Way”; to a half-decade of disrepair, brought on by bad business decisions and internecine struggles; to more recent years, an inspired and wildly prolific stretch unlikely for rockers now in their fifties.

(Their latest album, “Untitled #23,” is garnering glowing reviews, and a U.S. tour – with a stop at Seattle’s Triple Door this coming Monday – just commenced.)

Lurie weaves in narrative accounts of his own interactions with the band, and imagines a scene or two of historical import.

It is a crisply told tale; it is also not squeamish about the dark side of the rock lifestyle and Steve Kilbey’s often venomous persona – including his decade with the needle and the toll it took on his personal life.

The (by now clean) singer was for his part wholly forthcoming, telling his biographer: “Lurie, it’s your book. Write whatever you want about drugs. You have my blessing.”

He did. And in a frank conclusion, Lurie argues that genius is no excuse for surliness, and concedes that in any other context, he and Kilbey wouldn’t hit it off.

In fact, he considers the project a “very public exorcism,” one that freed him of Kilbey’s dark spell – or at least toned down his reverence to a less religious fervor. He writes:

“With regards to the Church – a band I had once worshipped as a substitute for a God that was, to quote Steve, ‘invisible to me’ – I now knew three of the musicians on a personal basis. It was a level of familiarity I could never have dreamed of in years past. But in getting that access, I too had traded something away: the all-consuming passion, the fanaticism that had so animated my teenage and early adult interest in this band. I felt a certain sadness at having lost that fervor, but also a sense of relief. The understanding that my favorite band was comprised of complicated and fallible men, rather than gods, came as both comfort and inspiration – comfort because flesh-and-blood humans are easier to contact, talk to, and relate to than deities, and inspiration because the achievements of these conflicted, sometimes frustratingly difficult individuals opened the possibility that other mixed-up people (such as myself) might also be capable of creating substantive and lasting work.”

He still digs the Church’s music, and Kilbey, in a lengthy epilogue, praises Lurie’s book.

While chagrined at some of the content, it was the singer himself who insisted on authorial honesty, wherever it led. Late in the book, he berates Lurie for his fawning agreement with one of Kilbey’s more self-aggrandizing pronouncements.

“It stung,” Lurie writes, “but when I thought about it later on, I respected him for saying that. After all, how many other rock stars would dress down their biographers for liking them too much?”


Profession of faith

Author and BHS grad Robert Dean Lurie reads from his newly published “No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church” (Verse Chorus Press) at 6:30 p.m. June 16 at Pegasus Coffee House.

And, if you haven't read it yet, Steve Kilbey's own review from two months ago:

got my bio in the post yessaday
nice work
i really enjoyed it
robert dean lurie has done a lovely job
and great relief
i read it all in one go yesterday
it was like a novel i couldnt put down
then this
then that
uh oh
watch out for nick...oooh..i mean niC...ward
also previously known as nigel murray
he recounts the night he got kicked out
complete with splendid tales of punching the"pommy bastard"
and " his bitch had jumped on my back"
i threatened to "knock her out"
"i lifted my knee into his guts...i was amused at this"

hes talking about marty n lucy willson-piper here.....
later on he daydreams how hed like to thump everyone involved...
how very strange
you see
poor olde fella still thinks violence is the answer
he says in the book i had a smart mouth but nothing to back it up with...
ie i didnt like being constantly threatened by my own drummer
ie if you said hey nic(k) can you play like this....
you didnt have to back it up with with yer fists
poor old nic(k) nigel nee murray-ward
still back in lyneham high
permanently locked into some 1950s aussie mans mans world
like paul hogan having a really bad acid trip
no one will ever wonder again why he was kicked out
they will, however, wonder why he was let in....
but jesus
it had me laughing out loud
a lot of the book did
theres some funny stuff in there
you wont believe it
of course i dont actually get royalties for it myself
so this is a free advertisement
its been a long time coming down the line
and im very happy with it
it is an aspect of my story
its fun to read....believe it or not
i felt like i was reading about some other geezer
some other geezer i dreampt up when i was still in the public service
a goodlooking young guitar strumming lad
with some goodlooking pals
(some stunning pics of young pete n marty)
an interesting up n down story
so random
so stupid
so preordained
a life i was destined to lead
and nic(k) ward was right
a smart mouth that got me into trouble n ruined it for me
why didnt i just shuttup and play?
theres lotsa good bits about my nasty side
dave studdert gives a withering account of my time in "tactics"
and gee whiz...i really was a turkey wasnt i
voice in another book : you were a real fool....
the drugs....yep
the cover is really nice
the quality of the paper is a bit iffy
its that glossy cheap stuff
theres loadsa pics you probably never seen before
rob has understood the biography thing well
and hes done a pretty good job
you can imagine how i'd be railing against it if it was a stinker
he even gives me the last word
and it seems a little harsh
taken out of some context but not really
on the printed page it just seems more...errr...concrete
and final
certainly the people who preordered so long ago
will be very very happy with it
its a lot better than some ive read
also remember that my life wasnt so exciting
so its hard for my biography to be too wild...
theres some sad stuff
some really hilarious stuff
peter koppes remarks kept me in stitches
oh god
i'm glad the little redheaded bugger wrote this book
he says many many kind things about my work
he understands
he grokks it
he wrote me an email recently saying he was loving u#23
to me thats high praise indeed
after all this
i mean i consider him an expert on us now
he deserves a masters degree
and i was pleased to be the object and subject in his thesis
maybe the church'll be selling it on church murch
go on
buy it
read it
imagine you had led that life
oh god what a story
a ha ha ha 


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