Rating : Three stars
by Debby Miller
In "Into My Hands", the most beautiful of the songs on this album by the Australian band the Church, singer Steve Kilbey, in his spacey fashion, pronounces an extraordinary bit of poetry: "As it gets so uncertain/When the girl gets too near/It's never as good as I hoped/Or as bad as I feared." This is more clever and more down to earth, than Kilbey usually is. His verses more often bring to mind early King Crimson or Pink Floyd, and most of what he says will whiz by the average guy, like these lines from "Shadow Cabinet": "Junction fever must have closed down the rail/ The gluttonous wind keeps on nibbling the sail/Queuing in the ruins in the wake of the gale/It's harmony I say."
Still, Kilbey comes up with some fascinating images: "I journey back to winterland/Cut my losses,grow my hair" he sings in one song. The music, primarily a mix of acoustic guitars and synthesizers, sets a consistently dark ambience. The wistful but grand instrumental track, "Remote Luxury", is like a wonderful piece of soundtrack music: evocative and richly textured. There's a sadness, a threat or a longing at the heart of most of the songs though the feeling is mostly conveyed by Kilbey's drifty, droning voice. With it's jangling guitars, the band often sounds very pretty, which is good because Kilbey doesn't. When the poetry is too trippy, as in "Maybe These Boys", it's hard to take the wimpy artiness of the album. But when Kilbey makes charming wordplays, as he does in the gorgeous "No Explaination", there's a ray of hope that this band , which has released three earlier LP's, could be more than just a psychedelic cult act.