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RAM review Of Skins And Heart 1981 Print E-mail
Friday, 12 June 1981

Nice, supportive review of the band's first album from RAM magazine of June 12 1981

The Church

Of Skins and Heart

(Parlophone)

Not many bands these days are interested in electric 12 string guitars. That distinctive chiming sound has largely been forgotten along with The Byrds' last hit. But Sydney's The Church have revived the sound to good effect on their debut album without sounding like a bunch of half-baked folkies.

The Church are the dark horses of Oz rock. until the recent success of their single, The Unguarded Moment, hardly anybody outside Sydney (and not many there either) had heard of them. For a band who were formed less than a year ago, they will now surprise many people with this very assured album.

The Church have had some difficulty gaining acceptance on the pub circuit because they have very little to do with hard rock'n'roll and the more extreme forms of dancing it provokes. Bass guitarist and vocalist Steve Kilbey writes melodies that need to be related to through the mind rather than the body. it is ambience music that still retains a strong basis in the backbeat, and in this respect they have a lot in common with Flowers (SC Note: the original name of Icehouse, another Australian band).

Not that The Church are any intellectual's dream. Steve Kilbey's angst-riden, precious lyrics forbid that. Two songs, Bel-Air and Is This Where You Live, falter because they appear to be constructed to highlight the self-indulgent words and consequently lack melodic momentum. Particular the latter , which at a sombre seven and a half minutes, proves to be a bit of an ordeal.

The best moments of Of Skins And Heart are the shorter, more up-tempo pop numbers. For A Moment We're Strangers is in the appealing vein of The Unguarded Moment (which is included here), while Chrome Injury, Memories In Future Tense and Fighter Pilot...Korean War are more complex and hard edged, displaying a less commercial side of the band. As a bonus the album includes their first single, She Never Said, which in its instrumental simplicity and lyrical directness, places it in marked contrast to the other tracks. This songs is the closest The Church come to dance music.

 A feature throughout the album is the excellent understated guitar interplay between Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper. Their wash of ringing guitars neatly complements the moody intensity of Steve Kilbey's songs. The American Bob Clearmountain's very clean production job is a subtle yet major asset to the record.

Like any debut album, Of Skins And Heart displays its influences on its sleeve (in this case English art-rock tempered through late '60s American folk rock and psychedelia). Though it is not a stunning listening experience, it is a still a good record and the band can be proud of it. The LP should go a long way to providing the audience respect and recognition that The Church deserve (and maybe begin a comeback of the electric 12 string guitar!)

Kent Goddard

Transcribed by Brian Smith

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