What do you do when you've got a commercially successful band that's
been together for 25 plus years, made numerous successful collaborations
with other artists, have alternative careers going as a poet, actor
and artist, and split your time between two of the most beautiful
countries in the world? I reckon I might take a few self-congratulatory
months off, but no such slacking for Church main man Steve
Kilbey, who's decided to use his down time to make his first solo
album in 8 years.
Kilbey's efforts have always been eclectic and compelling; in the
tradition of the solo project, he gets to stretch outside the boundaries
of the Church and indulge his more out-there musical ideas (which
maybe go a teensy bit too far on the 31-minute final track "Not
What You Say", but are otherwise admirably reined in).
Kilbey has worked with some top notch artists on previous albums,
including Margot Smith, the late Grant McLennan of the
much-missed Go-Betweens on the excellent Jack Frost
project (their self-titled first album is a particular classic) and
Game Theory's Donnette Thayer. Notable guest on Painkiller
is Graham Lee, formerly of the fantastic Triffids
and a long-time contributor to Australian music in general, who adds
his usual heartfelt pedal steel here.
Compared to some of the previous solo records, Painkiller
is surprisingly consistent without losing variety. Naturally, you
get quite a few songs that could fit nicely on a Church album, like
the propulsive opener "Outbound" with its classic Kilbey
stream-of-consciousness lyrics, the bass-pumping "Celestial"
and the epic, atmospheric "Song For The Masking" (almost
a Church song title too, and underpinned by some great discordant
guitar noise). "Oenone" also reminds quite a bit of the
Church, but its motorik, guitar-thrumming, almost Krautrock feel distinguishes
it from the herd and makes it into one of the very best songs here.
There are some fine diversions as well, though; try the short, jangly
pop song "Wolfe", which sounds like a long-lost Jack Frost
outtake. There are a couple of largely acoustic numbers; "Forever
Lasts For Nothing" would be fine like that all the way through,
with its minor chord melody reminiscent of an old Church song from
Séance or Remote Luxury, but is uplifted by pounding
drums, bass and string-like keyboards at the end. "Spirit In
Flame" also starts off as an acoustic strummer, but then veers
off into dub territory with a Jah Wobble-style bass - much
better than it sounds on paper, I assure you.
Most Church fans would probably admit to preferring the band's work
over its members' solo work - guitarists Marty Willson-Piper
(who also has a new solo record, Nightjar, shortly to be reviewed
here) and Peter Koppes, and drummer Tim Powles, are
all gifted enough on their own that they make the group much more
than the sum of its individuals. Still, Painkiller is a fine
record in its own right, and definitely up there with the best of
Kilbey's previous solo efforts like Remindlessness and Narcosis+.
It's the work of a hugely talented musician who's always avoided complacency
and compromise and followed his vision for much longer than most.
Check out more
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!