Hot on the heels of The Church singer / bassist Steve Kilbey's
ace solo album Painkiller, and with a new Church album Untitled
#23 almost upon us, comes this equally fine effort from Marty
Willson-Piper, the band's guitarist and occasional singer / songwriter.
Now, the Church guys could sing the phone book - the Swedish phone
book at that - and I'd give it a listen, but Nightjar and Painkiller
are both such great records that I'm positively giddy with anticipation
for the new full-band album.
Kilbey's solo albums often sound quite like the Church, but Marty
usually branches out a bit more into power pop, folk and baroque pop
alongside the epic, psychedelic rock of his day job. It's been quite
a while since his last solo studio disc Hanging Out In Heaven,
which came out in 2000, and it sounds like the man had plenty of great
tunes stacked up since then.
There's plenty of amazing guitar work as expected, both acoustic
and electric, backed up with some very nice, melancholy harmony vocals
and strings. In fact, there's quite a parade of distinguished guests:
Swedish/Polynesian Tiare Helberg on vocals (interesting combination
of nationalities, makes me think of Spinal Tap bassist Derek
Smalls' comment that he's somewhere between the fire and ice personalities
of his bandmates - like lukewarm water!); ex-Triffids' pedal
steel maestro "Evil" Graham Lee (who also makes an
appearance on the Kilbey album); and "Cornish Queen" Julie
Elwin's on various musical and vocal accompaniments. MWP even
drew the cover himself, and produced the record in England with "technical
poet" Dare Mason, his sometime buddy in Noctorum.
The songs are an eclectic bunch, but of a much higher standard than
you often find on solo albums. MWP sometimes sounds like he's a fan
of Richard Thompson's masterful guitar stylings and dark way
with a melody and lyric, on "More Is Less" for example.
One of the standouts is the fantastic "Lullaby For The Lonely";
it's very, very reminiscent of the late Grant McLennan (yes,
I got him into a review again !). The wistful melody and plaintive
backing vocals remind very much of McLennan songs like "One Plus
One". "High Down Below" is also reminiscent of GM or
late Go-Betweens, a circling electric melody with pulsing strings.
The other tune I can't get out of my head is "Feed Your Mind"
- this one is a little odd, but very good. The verses nick the melody
from "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", and I'm sure
I recognize the lyrics from somewhere - anyone who can give me a clue
on the following gets a prize: "...and you're sitting in your
sports car with your number plates from Monaco / And you're driving
down the coast to catch a flight / And you wake up in the hospital
with your face unrecognizable / And the nurse just comes and switches
off the light ..." I dunno, even if that's not a quote from somewhere
else, it takes a certain talent to make it sound like a steal.
The Church are doing a full US tour pretty soon now; I hope MWP
and Kilbey both bust out a few of their new solo tunes during the
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