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Unearthed: A travelogue through Kilbey?s mind Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 January 1986
A nice review of Unearthed

Unknown Australian Source
1986

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A travelogue through Kilbey’s mind

by Christie Eliezer

STEVE KILBEY
Unearthed
(Red Eye)

Free from the constraints of the three other members of The Church, Steve Kilbey’s solo LP is an unorthodox album that takes you into an informal journey through his mind. It is an indulgent LP because Kilbey wants it to be: often depicted as introverted, cynical and probably schizophrenic, Unearthed doesn’t necessarily make you understand what makes him tick

This is because he employs the approach taken by the individual film director Federico Fellini, particularly in Fellini’s Roma: both are a travelogue of the mind. Unlike ordinary travelogues, the things recorded are not as interesting in themselves as the eye-catching stylistics used to record them. Kilbey has an expansive vision and a large number of characters in his songs: the insinuation throughout is that life is just an illusion anyway.

This is very much a solo LP -- he wrote, arranged, played and produced most of it, getting in help from his bassist brother Russell (from Crystal Set) and his keyboards-players girlfriend Karin Jansson to help out here and there. “Swampdrone” and “Famine” are nothing more than jams or sound collages. Kilbey’s editing always undercutting the individual themes. “Famine” and particularly “Rising Son” are fascinating, fusing some exotic rhythms with eerie instrumentation.

Only two of the tracks could have fitted into a Church LP: “Out Of This World” mirrors the ethereal mood of the excellent and insanely neglected Heyday from last year.. “Judgement Day”, with its jangling guitars and laments like “I never intended to be a saint” is reminiscent of the band’s earlier work.

The others are simply folky tunes, with “Moon Festival” and “Design Error” showing off his ear for catchy melodies. The playing is effortless, with the themes something you need to listen to a couple of times. Like Heyday, this LP too seems to imply some vague sort of spiritual journey, or at the least, some devastating experience which made him open his eyes and cleanse his soul of all idealism.

As ever, the characters that stalk Kilbey’s songs are never revealed, only his attitude towards them. I don’t think Kilbey likes the people in his songs. He might profess to like them but he can only relate to them from a distance. There are moments when he gets too close to them and expresses only a disdain for them. Presumably, like Fellini, Kilbey seems to find difficulty in expressing too much love through his music because he is too much in love with the vision of the way things should be.

Self indulgence also allows one to treat one’s self to flashes of mediocrity. “Othertime” is one disposable cut. “Pretty Ugly Pretty Sad” is Kilbey trying to come across as being deep, but falling badly off the mark. In fact, the track has a musical and lyrical influence to “Mr. Bojangles”, that corny maudlin AOR hit that every “sensitive” singer/songwriter trots out sooner or later.

I turned around to see the clown
He made a sound, his face was down
He was crying
Dying to laugh
Down the empty avenue, I spied his worn out shoes
I’m flying
Trying just to come down

Strangely enough, something as puerile as this doesn’t detract from the rest of the LP: rather it encompasses an honest look at the workings of an interesting songwriter taking the luxury of being as self indulgent as he wants to be.

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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