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In Search of True Believers: SMH talks to Peter Print E-mail
Friday, 06 April 1990

Peter talks to the Sydney Morning Herald about Gold Afternoon Fix and the band's current status.

 

The Sydney Morning Herald
April 6, 1990

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IN SEARCH OF TRUE BELIEVERS

by Shane Danielsen

Some things take time. After almost a decade of work, forever chipping away at the frozen edges of mainstream acceptance, The Church finally seem poised to achieve that perennial Antipodean dream: to break through in the home of the brave, the United States.

Yet, when asked just how prominently that country figures in the band’s immediate concerns, guitarist Peter Koppes betrays, not entirely without justification, a certain impatience, an irritation: “Oh, look, that’s just a myth,” he sighs. “Our level of success in America is roughly equivalent to what we enjoy in this country.

“It’s just that there are more cities in America to play than there are major capitals here. But at the same time, it’s that much more difficult to maintain a profile over so large an area. We’ve broken through, to a certain extent, but we’re still a long way from being a household word.”

Which, despite his protests to the contrary, is clearly what they would like to become. Such a desire is apparent in their decision to work once again with veteran LA producer, Waddy Wachtel -- though Koppes insists this was a move owing more to compromise than to design.

“I think once you’ve had one success, it’s kind of intoxicating. You start to think that there must be some reason for it, and try to recreate it. We wanted to do something different this time, just for the sake of the unexpected, but as things turned out, it was simply more convenient to work with Waddy again -- though this time without his off-sider, Greg Ladanyi, who was a rather difficult sort of person to get along with.”

As always, it is something of a pyrrhic victory: the new album, Gold Afternoon Fix, is far from the unqualified triumph of 1986’s Heyday -- an album which time has revealed to be more and more aptly named. Nor does it quite fulfill the promise of its first single, the shimmering and abstracted Metropolis.

The new LP is a vaguely unsatisfying work, wherein moments of real brilliance nestle uncomfortably beside instances of flawed beauty -- like Terra Nova Cain, which moves from a superb opening into a tired sort of plod. Most worryingly, it reveals an increasing tendency toward lazy, AOR rock tracks, typified by Fading Away.

Despite these shortcomings, however, the album remains a stronger example of intelligent guitar-pop than virtually anything this country has spawned over the past two years. And thankfully, the essential qualities of the band have remained intact: the lyrics are typically surreal,, deliberately obtuse; the music considered, guitar-based, textural rather than immediate.

“Being who we are, it’s sort of self-determining. We can’t really think or work together in any other way. It’s very much a matter of group chemistry and interaction, defining what comes out. Sort of like an archaeologist, I guess, except that we’re digging away at things that haven’t come to exist yet -- but which are still sort of inevitable -- rather than the past, which is equally fixed.” He hesitates, adds, “If that makes sense.

“And also, we’re fairly happy being together -- though the mystery certainly hasn’t gone out of our marriage!” he laughs. “We do find good company in one another; there are no real tensions between us. Occasional disapproval of one another’s behaviour, yes --  but that’s par for the course with virtually any group of people. Ultimately, we get on fine, which of course can only help the music.”

As the band enters its second decade, and the ‘80s are left behind, the question of their continued relevance remains. If the British press are to be believed, something of an acid-house revolution looms in our not-too-distant future, a leviathan by all accounts set to make jangling guitar-oriented pop music as passé as punk.

On this issue, however, Koppes stands firm. “Right through our career, we’ve tried to ignore styles and forge our own. We had a real long-sightedness about what we intended to do. We never expected great success, which might sound overly modest, but it’s true: we expected a little, and were surprised by the response. We’re only just learning to take it in stride.”

The Church play at the Enmore Theatre tonight and tomorrow night.

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Transcribed by Mike Fulmer

 

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