The Church After Everything, Now This (Thirsty Ear)

Few rock bands have adored and explored the orchestral vocabulary and singing ring of the electric guitar with the commitment and distinguished touch of the Church. For founding members singer-bassist Steve Kilbey and guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper, the art of jangle has been a life's work: After Everything Now This is the Australian group's twelfth studio album since 1981 and true to precedent in its rippling gleam. After Everything is also a masterpiece of stealth, a quiet killer in which subtle exquisite shocks of tonal theater -- the doomsday ticktock and gently abrasive fuzz in "Numbers"; the ice-water drip of the arpeggios in "Chromium" -- puncture the reverb without scarring it. The seamless-dream quality of After Everything is no small accomplishment; the Church, with drummer-producer Tim Powles, made the record in studios on three continents. But in these songs of dislocation and disconnection, intoned by Kilbey in a silken-lava baritone, Koppes' and Willson-Piper's guitars are a seductive counterweight, piercing the tension with an elegantly disruptive twang in "After Everything" and the interlocking dread of airplanelike hum, breathy strum and the insistent static of a guitar pick scraped against a string in "Invisible." In fact, After Everything is virtually free of classic-rock riff ego; the electricity in the Church's wraparound shimmer is in the accumulation of sculpted detail, like the trebly shiver and spritz of backward guitar framing the bullish distorted lead in "Reprieve." It is a sound, and grace, that the Church have pursued for more than two decades, and maybe you've heard it before. But you've rarely heard it better. (DAVID FRICKE)


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