ANOTHER UNCOMMON DENOMINATION
AFTER TWO YEARS, THE CHURCH ARE HOLDING SERVICE AGAIN.
THEIR NEW ALBUM "SOMETIME ANYWHERE"
FINDS A FEW LESS IN THE CONGREGATION.
BY ADRIAN HEALEY
After a two year siesta in the wilderness, and the shock departure of founding guitarist Peter Koppes, the Church have re-grouped and returned with a new studio album, "Sometime Anywhere" (on Arista), which was written, recorded and mixed in just two months last summer. Now down to a duo of Marty Willson-Piper on guitars and Steve Kilbey on bass and vocals, the Church operate transglobally with Willson-Piper residing in Stockholm and Kilbey in Sydney.
"I think Peter had been unhappy for quite some time and was philosophically at odds with the whole project," reckons Marty. "I think he felt that Steve and I were either getting too much attention, or not paying enough attention to the band. Steve and I do tend to go off and do lots of other things as well..."
Literally hours before the Church's last tour in Australia in 1992, Koppes announced his intentions, and despite staying on for the tour's duration, quit immediately afterwards. So was there any possibility that this might signal the end of the Church?
"Absolutely not," retorts Steve. "We still had the enthusiasm and the identity, and Peter certainly wasn't totally necessary to the thing being called the Church."
"To be honest," adds Marty, "it never worried me at all. Steve and I can always sit down and write a great song together."
Which is precisely what they did a year later when Marty joined Steve in his Sydney studio along with producer Dare Mason to work on "Sometime Anywhere". However, this album was done very differently than previous Church releases.
"There was no three months in rehearsal hacking the songs into shape," explains Steve. "We went into the studio and wrote straight onto the tape recorder. A lot of the stuff you can hear on the album now was literally being played for the first time. It's a very experimental album."
It was an experience Marty thoroughly enjoyed. "The recording was actually easier because there were less people to have a problem with something and less people to find a part for themselves."
As a result, the album finds the Church sounding fresh and invigorated, as well as more immediate than ever before. From the radio-friendly "Loveblind", the dreamscape of "Fly Home", the quasi-psychedelic "Business Woman", and the heavily dance-oriented "Angelica", the scope of the album is immense. Full of great melodies and buckets of melancholy, "Sometime Anywhere" also retains that age-old Church characteristic of being decidedly awkward to categorize. All the same, albums that encompass so many different musical styles are usually a bit thin on the ground.
"I don't know about records these days that are all one thing," counters Marty. "I don't see why Lush have to sound the same in every song, and I don't see why Soundgarden have to have that guy screaming his guts out all the time. Actually, I really don't care and I would still go out and probably buy those records. The thing about the Beatles was that they could put "Helter Skelter" and "Martha My Dear" on the same album. To me, that is perfect creative and artistic success. I mean, nobody ever said 'Well, i like this Picasso guy, but he really should leave this new-fangled cubism alone,' did they?"
But isn't it really difficult to marry creative freedom with the immense pressure to obtain commercial success and have hit singles?
"Steve's got a studio, I've got a studio, and we've got a hardcore following all over the world," points out Marty. "It really doesn't matter to us whether we have a hit or not. It matters to the record company, and the people we owe money, and that's fair enough. But for us, it's not winning the race, but being in the race which is important. We are extremely fortunate because there are not that many bands in the world in our position."
And to what do they attribute their longevity? Remember these guys have now been going for fourteen years - "Sometime Anywhere" is their ninth studio album, and the duo are so prolific that Arista is making a bonus disc of songs available only in the first pressing of the album.
"There was never any reason to break up," confirms Steve. "It always feels like we've still got one more really good album left in us, and I still have that feeling today. I think that we are actually getting better with age, and we'll keep it together until we make a record that we both consider to be really disgusting."
On the evidence provided with "Sometime Anywhere", this seems highly unlikely to happen in the 20th century. Expect a tour with a six-or seven-piece "band" featuring a violinist and a trumpet player, that will play some intimate and exotic settings.