The Blurred Crusade
by The Church
REVIEWS and COMMENTS
'The Blurred Crusade'
(Carrere CAL 140) ***
These ecclesiastical ones are, in fact, Australian, but you'd never guess they were anything other than true blue Americana. A strange sort of image these lads have too. A curious mixture of psychedelia, pop-metal and strummed acoustics, they're a tough nut to crack stylistically. Early Byrds influences vie with vocals a la Lou Reed and even (well, quite naturally) a hint of the Psychedelic Furs too. Curioser and curioser: strangely dated, but meriting further investigation if you're a lover of quality rock with an early '7Ts feel.
Blurred Crusade (EMI)
The title is an obliquely accurate summation of where Kilbey & Congregation are headed...down the aisle of fuzzy-edged deference to the concept-conscious sixties; a vague sense of musical presence is evidenced in the title of the culled single, Almost With You...The Church go close to connecting so often, but Kilbey's vaguely cryptic lyrical scenarios detract from the band's sharp musical intent. A confessional offering, begging to be absolved from the structures of claustrophobic paranoiac songwriting.
THE BLURRED CRUSADE
Carrere CAL 140
Exquisitely younger than yesterday, The Church unlike, say, Duran Duran or any other comparable teen idols, are by no means perfect. On the contrary, they thrive on the preposterous abandon and indulgence granted rock star egos, love to make a sacred mountain out of some mundane molehill. Of course, this is psychedelia but I didn't want to put you off too soon.
Listening to "The Blurred Crusade" is much like hearing The Only Ones for the very first time, a sneaking glimpse into someone else's foibles set to an often inappropriate but always rousing and marvellously melodic accompaniment.
There's more to mull over in the many romanticised flaws and weaknesses of "Crusade" than in the superior strengths and slicknesses of a million ABC's.
Bolder, more erratic, more dangerous than their debut (already recommended by this hack). "Crusade" finds the Church pursuing their surf psychedia to its conclusive paisley splash. They may remind you of the best of late Sixties' pop where experimentation and commerciality enjoyed a brief liaison, but the sound of young Australia is uniquely fresh rather than anachronistic.
Something about the way Peter Koppes' opening chords to "I'm Almost With you" whips the listener into the ozone, something about the adrenalin unleashed by that acoustic crescendo on "Come Up And See Me", something about the way Steve Kilbey's cracked, mournful vocals transcend cliche, touches the lodestone of classic pop.
Taking unusually uncool risks and carrying them off with poise and panache, The Church sound unbelievably confident, Kilbey's fragile celebrations of the tricks and trials of the hedonistic human psyche hung in free prairies of wide open space for the listener's imagination to explore.
In other words, my words aren't nearly enough — "The Blurred Crusade" is an experience. I can only urge you to get converted and join the congregation soon as poss.
And now for the eagerly-awaited second album from Australia's leading classic rock musicians, The Church. After having scored such critical acclaim and commercial success with Of Skins and Heart, the second LP could either be extravagantly better than the first or it could be a disappointment.
It is neither. Blurred Crusade (EMI, PSCO 7585) initially sounds like a blueprint for Of Skins and Heart. At first listening, Blurred Crusade drones on with typical Steve Kilbey melancholia. The Church's identifiable melodies are there, Steve Kilbey's identifiable poetic lyricism is there, the British influence is there.
What is missing? I suspect some kind of devilment is missing, some expansiveness of challenge in the music. Kilbey has not gone forward.
Blurred Crusade has been snapped up by AM and FM radio stations, and you will fall over the high-rotation playing of the track Almost With You on 2SM. Blurred Crusade has to be a commercial success because of the reputation of the band as fine studio musicians and because the music is so very much what one expects from The Church.
The only worry is that the third album will sound exactly like Blurred Crusade...which sounds remarkably similar to Of Skins and Heart...
★★★★★ (5 stars out of 5)
A brilliant evocation of neo-psychedelia with Steve Kilbey's haunting love and reincarnation songs superbly captured by Bob Clearmountain. A mature and original work.
Released just as the 'paisley underground' movement was kicking into full swing, 1982's echoey Bob Clearmountain-produced "The Blurred Crusade" is a more rounded effort bringing out the best in the young Church. With original drummer Nick Ward replaced by the much more versatile Richard Ploog, MWP's double-strung Rickenbacker is a prominent force here, while Kilbey's opaque lyrics and dreamy delivery and Koppes' fluid lines help make the album a start-to-finish listen. When You Were Mine packs a potent psych-rock rush, Almost With You is a bona fide classic single and the jam-friendly You Took has since become a live showstopper.
Four and a half stars out of five
The Church: Blurred Crusade (Carrere CAL 140)
I put a spike into my vein and feel a charge so sharp and sure; I must be listening to the second Church LP! But who are The Church and why are these relics from the bygone beat age flirting with mid-sixties psychedelia?
Well, for a start they're from Australia and if there's one thing that can burn the best out of a bunch of reprobate surf groupies it's that bronzing Bondi Beach sun. But The Church are no frazzled revivalists. Like The Birthday Party, The Cramps, the very wonderfully psychotic Gun Club and perhaps most pertinently, the sadly defunct Soft Boys, The Church are merely built on the foundations of a golden era.
Their actual structure is inextricably caught up in the humour self-parody, satire and above all, respect, of and for the present. At a time when many leading artists are realising that there are few new musical fields to plough and little left unsaid, The Church too are paying tribute. By opening and poking among rock's rich archives, they are leaving themselves free to explore their own ideas and dreams.
Soulful Steve Kilbey's lyrics are quietly preoccupied with dreams and other related imagery. Steve Kilbey's songs are songs of yearning and celebration, celebrating love lost and hopefully regained. Love songs like "Just For You" and "To Be In Your Eyes", embellished with scintillating guitars (electric, acoustic and 12-string from Peter Koppes and Marty William-Piper [sic] respectively) and shot through with the world-weariest vocals this side of the Only Ones.
If there's to be any criticism of the The Church it's that their guitar sound is just a little too derivative of McGuinn and The Byrds. But y'know.... Finally 'The Blurred Crusade' is produced by the heavily in-demand Bob Clearmountain who this year alone has performed similar services for Roxy Music and The Rolling Stones. Not that The Church need such a superficial seal of approval.
I put a spike into these grooves and am intoxicated by songs of strength and redemption. Let us pray!
+ + + + + (5 out of 5 = "Truly Fab")
It's only the Church's second album and yet already they're starting to deliver the promise. The Blurred Crusade is an opulent album, as rich in aural dimensions as it is in the sparkling psychedelic imagery of Steve Kilbey's lyrics. Veering close to traditional ballad structure, Kilbey's songs have an eerie timelessness. The melodies are a lyrical blend of folk and pure pop, an atmosphere which is enhanced by the rapid acoustic strumming of Marty Willson-Piper and the simultaneous jangling pop riffs of Peter Knoppes [sic].
American producer Bob Clearmountain has given the Church a dynamic, giant sound which defies even the limitations of a tiny stereo with a booming drum sound and an overall lushness and clarity. This is most effective on "You Took," the song from which the album takes its title. The song starts with a rippling bass line which is gradually joined by a weighty drum rhythm. These are augmented by flowing guitar melodies and Kilbey's sung/spoken vocals. Together they skillfully build and dissipate with the grace and control of an orchestral opus.
Confirming their reputation as a strong-willed, assertive group, The Church have marked one side of the album "Their Side" and the other "Our Side." "Our Side" contains the single "Almost With You" and four other immediately accessible tracks. "Their Side" - presumably the record company's - is ironically more self-indulgent but equally rewarding.
The Blurred Crusade is a lot more even than its predecessor. Kilbey's lyrics are still as tantalising as they are mystifying, heavily steeped in the tunnel-vision clarity of the original psychedelics: 'Psychic angels spread on the top of her head / And in the compartments of my dread / The rush hour crush travels home to bed," Kilbey sings in "An Interlude" in his deep, resonant, neo-Steve Harley vocal style.
Having never been a great Church fan, this album has demanded that I change my attitude. It's a fascinating and refreshing record which I whole-heartedly recommend.
The Field of Mars is an old cemetery in the North Ryde area of Sydney. It has a nice ambiance & is a good place to go for a walk. I believe the song is about a funeral for a friend there. Great song.
Best stoner album ever recorded. You must have this in your collection!
I'm in my mid forty's now and jumped on the bandwagon right from the start. First saw them at the Shanndon for $1.08 cents. Loved the first album, but Blurred Crusade was something special.
'Almost With You' is as pure a pop song as will ever be written. 'Just For You' reminds me of the countless Church shows that sustain me till when they came back to tour again. Some of their live versions of this song are outstanding.
Secret Corners, Fields of Mars, You Took... what can I say.
I love "To Be In Your Eyes" it is so melodic and poignant.
It was a great time for me when this album was released, toured constantly, and if they weren't playing then I could go see the Sunnyboys or Screaming Believers. What an album! What a band!
yes this album still stands out as being a quintessential church album--it's a nice delicate balance of acoustic, prog-like rock, and just plain rawk.
and its steven kilbey at his least esoteric and as been said before most beautiful. it's cool how you can go from the delicateness of 'to be in your eyes' and the balls to the wall solo of 'a fire burns,' not to mention the excellent long rocker 'you took' which builds and recedes and builds.
never even mind marty willson-piper's 'field of mars' which is ridiculously heartbreakingly beautiful especially when the bells come in and fade out to leave a touching music box sound.
man i often think if i hadn't discovered bands like the church and echo and the bunnymen and lou reed and guided by voices when i was in high school i wouldn't be where i am today in a lot of ways.
this album is great, and like rem's murmur or gbv's alien lanes or vu's banana album it has a timeless quality that is one of a kind. some of the bands like this were never able to recreate these sounds but i think it's more than enough to have done it once.
It is beyond rare that a band on their second outing produce such a beautiful album.
That being said, The Church were never like any other band, which is why there are those of us entering our late thirties that still hang onto every note or word that springs forth from the mindspring of Steve Kilbey, Marty Willson-Piper, Peter Koppes, and Tim Powles.
"The Blurred Crusade" was out of print at the time that I began to collect all things Church. Luckily, there is a record store in Long Island that specializes in hard to find gems and I luckily snatched up a copy years back and put the CD on for a listen.
I will admit, I jumped on the Church bandwagon with "Under the Milky Way" along with many others. This was the late eighties when GOOD music was coming out and there was way too much stuff to digest at the time. 1987-88 was a musical renaissance of sorts for the business, with the best bands putting forth works of astonishing quality and brilliance such as U2, Midnight Oil, INXS, R.E.M., The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, and of course, The Church.
Upon being hooked, it is only natural to see where these guys were coming from, so back-catalog hunting I went...
Almost With You...
Words fail me when describing this song. Simply beautiful.
When You Were Mine...
A song WELL before it's time.
If the influence here wasn't Pink Floyd, then I don't know what else to say. Only they do Floyd better than Roger Waters did here. My favorite track from this brilliant work of art.
Just For You...
Pop brilliance. They sounded like R.E.M. here long before there even WAS an R.E.M. ...Shimmering and lovely!
At eight minutes, a masterpiece that they still play live (at least in 2004). Easily a song that could go on for an hour and I wouldn't mind.
Simply put, an astonishing piece of early work that hints at the elegance that is to come and a superb sophomore effort that in unequalled in their early works.
Fell in love with this band after hearing this album live. 100's of gig's later - BIGGER FAN THAN EVER
Where's Ploogie??? ....
Thanks for all of the J'Bars Ploog & Steve - The ones in the carparks after all the 1980's Brissy Gigs - (Hiding from the police state). Lots of us haven't forgotten you...