by The Church


It would be simplistic and unfair to suggest that The Church has been preving off the fruits of one glorious "Unguarded Moment". But it is equally just to state that its music since has lacked the emotional vigour and melodic thrill of that early track.

Indeed, that song has typecast Kilbey and his cohorts in the eyes and ears of his fans. A fact that makes new ventures as a band even more difficult. For three reasons The Church are playing for their musical life on Seance. And whilst the score remains unsettled and the style unchanged there are enough impassioned moments on the disc to win the combo a reprieve from the entertainment gallows.

At his meanest, Kilbey is a miniature version of Mick Jagger, staring straight at you through those woofers with the evilest of eyes. Hence, after the serene, mystical "Fly" all too quickly comes to pass, Kilbey makes his first emotional victory on Seance with the churning incantation "One Day". This is suitably followed by the snowballing rage of "It's No Reason". In both cases, the animal magnetism in his vocals transforms otherwise pedestrian songs into the heaviest traffic in town.

Occasionally, The Church has a deluge of ideas that sadly falls onto a desert of commerciality. The unconventional currents of "Electric" is one such stirring example. It has many intriguing percussive and guitaring permutations going for it, but n'er do they tumble into a kaleidoscope of accessibility.

Ditto for the over-busy "Travel By Thought", a mind-piece whose hypnotic ways lie somewhere between the psychologists couch and the patient's bed.

But not always does the surreal so dominate. On "Electric Lash" and "Dropping Names", Kilbey kicks about enjoyable throwaway riffs like a kid with a rusty tin can. It's a pleasure to observe the "unserious insect" so long cocooned in the name of intellectual big-noting. There are songs that say less but mean so much more than the heavier mental sojourns.

With the brooding, electronic moonscope of "It Doesn't Change", The Church returns to its black mass and sombre sermons. Ultravox would be amused and perhaps pleased by its perplexing lyrics and underplayed syntho-beat. Yet, ultimately, it is a track that never heats into the nuclear meltdown it so often promises.

Seance continues the serious, alternative rock sound that has become The Church's trademark. It is a sound that needs a good melody to hold interest and a cryptic turn of phrase to keep the intellectuals contented.

Happily, Seance has enough of both to succeed. But I dare say that the next album will have to be a drastic change of direction. After all, how many ways can you cherish one "Unguarded moment"?

It was hardly surprising that 1983's Seance proved the least successful of the Church's early albums, given its moribund tone and the fact that the band opted to produce it themselves. Indeed, attempting to follow in the footsteps of Bob Clearmountain was a daunting task by any standard. As it turned out, their efforts were further subverted by engineer Nick Launay, who subsequently remixed the tapes without the group's consent. As a result, the drums took on added prominence, further emphasizing the LP's ominous qualities.

As always, bassist Steve Kilbey did the lion's share of the composing, but his penchant for moody atmospherics and somber storytelling did little to gain them access to the charts. The sole group composition, "Travel By Thought," fails to cut through the haze, bowing instead to cosmic indulgence via its spectral effects and trippy, scattershot rhythm. Nevertheless, the album did produce a pair of especially incandescent offerings in "It's No Reason," a song boasting shimmering textures and some unusually ethereal harmonies, and "Now I Wonder Why," which pits a steady strum against the song's stealth-like pulse. Likewise, the two singles flipsides—"Dropping Names" and "It Doesn't Change"—now added to the original album, prove apt embellishments to the set list, and, in fact, emerge as two of the more accessible songs in the collection as a whole.

Sadly though, Seance failed to capitalize on any success or forward momentum achieved by the Church's two initial outings, leaving it to their next effort to regain lost ground.

A fan-dividing record when it came out, 1983's "Seance" is truly a weird fish. Due to engineer Nick Launay choking the drums in synthetic harshness, the LP is sonically dated yet contains some absolute corkers - Fly, Disappear?, Electric Lash - and in Travel By Thought, a free-form trip.

★★★½ (three and a half stars out of five)

Seance, The Church (EMI)

The Church's third album continues in the vein of the previous two. The major difference is that producer Nick Launay, who's responsible for Midnight Oil's last album (10 to 1) has mixed Richard Ploog's powerhouse drumming more to the fore - a good thing, as the lad's one of the best drummers in the country. The highlight is obviously Steve Kilbey's beautiful ballad, "It's No Reason", the album's first single. My only quibble is with "Travel By Thought", the lengthy percussive piece that ends the first side - it seems a trifle indulgent and breaks the flow of the album. Otherwise, Seance is an excellent collection of songs that will keep The Church fans happy and, hopefully, expand their audience overseas. I still don't have the faintest idea what Steve Kilbey's lyrics are all about but Seance sounds great.

My first church LP! A psychedelic masterpiece! "It Doesn't Change" will always bring you to the forest of your mind! I'm very grateful I saw the church in Hamburg, Germany at the Markthalle in the late '80s. [April 18, 1990 actually - fip]

The Church
(Carrere CAL201) ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)

A question: why, in the Eighties, do some bands still find the urge to recreate the psychedelia of the Sixties?

The answer to this will probably never be uncovered so the question will always remain irrelevant. The Church, however, will never be irrelevant because they are quite simply timeless.

Admittedly they are guilty of tearing ideas from Sixties cupboards littered with Byrds albums, chiming Rickenbackers, trippy lyrics and profundities, but then they do add their own character and style.

The first side sees five bright bursts of bravado opening with the short, succinct 'Fly' and taking in such intriguing delights as 'Electric' and 'It's No Reason' before closing with the astral pulsebeat of 'Travel By Thought'.

With 'Seance', The Church have proffered a tasty gift.

The album that gave us Electric Lash.

Another wonderful release from The Church.

Fly and One Day are a one-two punch that sets the tone. Many have complained about the drums sounding fake, but this was, after all, 1983 folks...they fit their era well! (though I would KILL for the boys to re-make One Day and fix up the ending!)

Electric is so's a song that needs to be played while driving through the city at night with the bass on FULL FORCE. It's a sound of the times and what a wonderful sound it is. Truly a song that never got it's due and was NEVER (I believe, anyway) played live by the band. Reminiscent of early Duran Duran in a way. Hell, the Church opened for them so it's actually fitting!

It's No Reason is lush and atmospheric with somber chords and a lyrical delivery that comes from an inner soul that finds Kilbey storytelling through disjointed imagery and sonic colors once again.

Electric Lash is just plain pretty! Is it me or does the opening plucked notes sound like R.E.M.'s later Radio Song?


The Church were and ARE so ahead of their time...

We are truly lucky to have them!

This album is as fresh now as it was when it was released all those years ago, this band are true Aussie legends. One Day and Disappear are the stand-out tracks for me. The Church rule.

I just listened to the album for the first time in a few years today. Out of the Church's entire catalogue, Seance is my absolute favorite. The song's are timeless and still enjoyable. The cautious optimism and ambiance in "Electric" and "It's No Reason" are the strongest standouts on this record. Also, "Disappear?" and "Now I Wonder Why" are great jangley guitar pop songs. All in all, not a bad track.

Music can't be better than this. This record is perfect. If I have to chose one record, this is the one. Steve Kilbey is GOD. Am I wrong?. Of course not!