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Review of Gold Afternoon Fix Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 March 1990

A thorough review of GAF

Unknown Australian source
March or early April, 1990

The Church: everything that glitters

Gold Afternoon Fix

by Ross Clelland

There is a great difficulty in reviewing Church albums. It’s impossible to sit down and listen to a new release in a couple of sittings, and make a definite appraisal. Said offering tend to be so dense, so layered, that you really have to live with it for at least quite some weeks, still changing your mind over various songs, feels, lyrics and meanings as time goes on.

My secret past life as a stock market reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper remind me that the title refers to the overnight closing price set on the glistening commodity -- see, in such an unsure world even the value of the most valuable is variable. Think about it. That’s my attempt to intellectualise it, Church fans will find a dozen different meaning for the title, but that’s mine.

I had a few problems approaching Fix. With the three main protagonists now all individual artists of varying repute (nine solo albums between them) I worried that group records would degenerate into collections of leftover songs and half-realised ideas. No. A Church record is still a record of class, possibly improved because Steve Kilbey (in particular) can indulge his egocentricity on his sole efforts, leaving group albums to be just that, with inputs from all the members.

That makes Fix a more focused record, gaining from the solo experiences rather than having them detract from it. Virtually all tracks are credited to the four members, though most are obviously Kilbey-led.

A casual Church listener probably couldn’t pick a change. The guitars still ring, Kilbey’s voice still has that liquid, sleepy, seductive quality (“The sort of voice you’d like to wake up next to,” according to a female of my acquaintance). There are some new things going on, Kilbey’s solo Remindlessness and the Hex album (with Donnette Thayer) contained some interesting complex ethnic rhythms, and some of them carry over to Fix. Note that it’s drummer Richard Ploog who has now exited, so maybe we can really say it was the classic “musical differences” that have caused is departure; sorry, “leave of absence”.

Lyrically, things seem a little more direct. The love songs bleed a little more openly: “I realised I spent my whole life coming back to you” (Laughing), and even one openly titled “You’re Still Beautiful” -- blunt by Church standards. Kilbey says the straightforwardness is entirely purposeful, giving the band “more bite on all levels”.

It can still get a little dreamy, but now rather as good poetic imagery rather than just hazy surrealism: “The smoke turns into serpents in the air” (City). Yeah, quite nice that.

And there’s something I never thought I’d find on a Church album: humour. Not slapstick, but certainly funnier than Mark Mitchell’s comedy show. The drowned future world sci-fi theme of “Terra Nova Cain” (the title is a pun on a certain very powerful painkilling drug) is lightened with pithy stuff like: “We used to float around her weightless bedroom/That used to drive me up the wall” Well, I laughed. How about: “Turn down the gravity/This is only too heavy/I’ll show you how the ancients travelled/They used to call it a Chevy” OK,  suit yourselves.

Other stuff worthy of note: “Disappointment” a nice languorous ballad with Spanish guitar, “Pharaoh” opens the album with a mummy’s eye view of life (or death) recalling The Triffids’ “Jerdaccuttup Man”. Marty Willson-Piper’s “Russian Autumn Heart” (only on a Church album would you find a song with a title like “Russian Autumn Heart”) rocks along quite nicely, using a choppy guitar line akin to “Tantalised” from Heyday. “Grind” is the closer, with tasteful tinkling piano for a suitably world weary ending.

There are a couple of weaknesses. The first single, “Metropolis” and songs like “Essence” are almost indenti-kit Church songs, the sort of thing Kilbey could knock over in an hour without much effort. How about “City” or “Fading Away” as a follow-up 45? -- take a risk on quality rather than playing too safe, eh Mushroom?

Peter Koppes’ contribution, “Transient”, is a pretty ordinary song which came as a surprise -- his solo LP, From The Well, was better than this pretty pedestrian affair. I’m all for band democracy with everyone getting a fair run, but this song just ain’t good enough.

Waddy Wachtel’s production is fairly unobtrusive, not trying to change The Church’s sound, just concentrating on putting down as good a performance of it as possible.

Overall, this will not go down as the greatest Church collection, but it is far from the worst. Gold Afternoon Fix is more coherent and consistent than I had hoped. It is probably a transition piece, a band coming to terms with the sum of its parts and just beginning to explore beyond its previous boundaries.

Kilbey’s amazing prolificness allows him to put out solo, collaboration and Church albums of quality. Long may he do so. But as I said at the top of this screed therein, often. But, after a week of living with this offering in the house, in the car, on the Walkman, this is good enough until the next one comes along. More than adequate.

-- Ross Clelland

“Gold Afternoon Fix” is released on April 9


Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

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