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The Church
After Everything Now This
Thirsty Ear


The Church have made a 20-year career out of inhabiting the hollows of rock’s landscape, being content to explore the subtle interplay of lead guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper than chasing after current musical trends. They are lush without being precious, complex without being impenetrable. This is an elemental band--four musicians who are all highly prolific in other projects, as solo performers as well as producers, who seem to sense each others’ strengths and quirks as much as their own breath; four men able to evoke definite emotions from indefinite sonic textures, and vice versa. This brings a special richness to their music, a confidence and ease few bands can sustain as long as the Church has.

After Everything Now This is the band’s first album of original material since 1998’s Hologram Of Baal, and first release since 1999’s Box of Birds, a collection of covers ranging from Television to Neil Young, Iggy Pop to Carole King. Yet while the aforementioned records made nary a ripple outside of the band’s fervent fan base, After Everything is a fluid, sensuous work capable of recapturing the general public’s imagination. For those willing to uncover its secrets, the reward is perhaps the most cohesive, emotional Church record to date; an album brimming with regret and bittersweet reflection, brilliantly produced by drummer Tim Powles.

Released on its own teaser EP in December, "Numbers" follows in the tradition of past opening tracks "Myrrh" (Heyday), "Destination" (Starfish), "Pharaoh" (Gold Afternoon Fix), and "Aura" (Priest=Aura)–songs of grand scope, incorporating themes of motion, travel, distress, discovery, and prophecy. This is an unsettling, insidious song, the numerical motif–1 law for the officers, 1 for the gentlemen, 2 bad you 3 know what it’s 4 –creating a systematic feeling of dread and uncertainty, spiraling into a climactic chant that seems equal parts warning and prayer. The last minute of the song is a chaos of numerals, percussion, and a downright unhinged Come on! from Steve Kilbey, whose vocal dubs are well-used here.

Truthfully, it is somewhat difficult placing "Numbers" within the context of the album as "After Everything" sways in with its 60s chamber-pop feel. From this point on, the album establishes itself with a much lighter touch than its immediate predecessors Magician Among The Spirits and Hologram Of Baal, yet loses none of the emotional punch. On the contrary, even the most devout Church fan would be hard-pressed to name another song as deeply personal as "After Everything". I really thought it would go on forever Kilbey sings, and phrases of doubt anchor the overall melancholy of this song in deep regret: I never said, It seems so strange, I was never really sure. Subdued percussion and light touches of piano and viola (played by David Lane and Jane Seymour, respectively) help to accentuate the song’s gorgeous guitar line. "The Awful Ache" begins with a stuttering electric guitar and sweeping violin, the chiming guitar on the verses evoking an underwater feel, which is fully realized on the bridge. Kilbey’s vocals are throaty, slightly strained, perfectly capturing "the ache."

Vocals are a wonder on After Everything. Often, they save the song from mediocrity, such as "Song For The Asking", which seems to meander for its duration, but backing vocals and grand piano add a depth that is not present in the lyrics. Kilbey is often considered to be a cold, serviceable singer, which does him a vast injustice as he is a master at turning a phrase, inflecting layers of meaning with one simple nuance. But After Everything showcases some of his most passionate vocals to date, as if its personal subject matter has given him confidence in his voice. As a result, the album resonates with warmth and sincerity–no need to lurk behind complicated metaphor.

"Reprieve" and "Night Friends" are where Koppes and Willson-Piper truly step up and put their poetry in motion, two guitar badasses who play with restraint, power, and sheer eroticism. "Reprieve" in particular comes on like a sly smile–When you sleep, you never know the vigil I keep. Toss in a pulsating bass line and a guitar solo that is pure Pink Floyd, and you have one of this band’s most dynamic and stunning songs. "Night Friends" is a languid, dark ride that takes the Floyd comparison to its limit, piano accentuating the gentle flow of guitar through Powles’ rhythmic soundscape.

Two of this album’s most astounding tracks are at its very center. "Chromium" is Willson-Piper’s most subdued and impassioned contribution to a Church record to date. As always, it is the most straight-forward song on the record, but its sophistication outshines past pieces ("Spark", "Russian Autumn Heart") ten-fold. The percussion and bass line on this song are infectious. "Radiance" reveals itself with breath-taking beauty; Kilbey’s vocals filtering through multiple dubs like sunlight through a stained glass window as he relates a tale possibly based on the Visions of Fatima. Faith plays an understated role in this album–faith in friends, family, lovers, faith in God, faith that blown chances and broken hearts will pass. "Seen It Coming" encapsulates this wry, gorgeous sentiment, and features some of the best vocal harmonies the Church has ever put to tape.

"Seen It Coming" would have made a fantastic, majestic closing song for this album, but the band does not let us off that easy. Instead we have "Invisible," a slow, quiet heartbeat of a track which is sure to pass into legend. Bringing After Everything Now This full circle, "Invisible" instills in the listener once again the feeling of regret, uncertainty, motion (listen for the sound of the Swedish Rail), and unspeakable beauty. If the Church had to be known for the duration of their career for one song, this would be my choice. Its power cannot be overstated.

So few bands are producing albums that demand to be listened to from start to finish; so few bands turn out an album of such clarity and intent 20 years into their career. The Church still matters, and After Everything Now This is all of the evidence people on the outside world will need.

Heather Space

Track Listing:

  1. Numbers
  2. After Everything
  3. The Awful Ache
  4. Song For The Asking
  5. Chromium
  6. Radiance
  7. Reprieve
  8. Night Friends
  9. Seen It Coming
  10. Invisible

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