// Album Recommendation

The Church

After Everything Now This

(2002)

”It seems so strange
That the things I was chasing
Have all evaporated
Like a distant dream.”

After Everything Now This by The Church

With the release of After Everything Now This, Australian Alternative Rock legends The Church proved that the previous album, 1998’s return to form Hologram Of Baal, wasn’t merely a short-term burst of inspiration – that they had indeed rekindled their creative spark and still had it in them to write, arrange, produce and record an album that was excellent from start to finish. Not only is After Everything Now This an album of consistently high quality, it’s also their most accessible since Starfish (1988) without compromising any of the qualities and trademarks – melancholia, darkness and mysticism – that long-term fans have come to expect from this unique and incomparable band. After Everything Now This wasn’t a return to the more accessible New Wave-inflicted/Alternative Pop of their '80s output. The accessibility lies in its smooth and melodic sensibilities, be it the songwriting or the playing, the lead vocals and harmonies or the turn of a phrase. As opposed to some of their other albums, none of the songs here are likely to scare off newcomers to The Church (as might, for instance, more challenging works such as Chaos from Priest = Aura, or the title track off Magician Among The Spirits). Music, lyrics, instrumentation and arrangements all come together on After Everything Now This. It’s a remarkably cohesive, fluid and homogenic album from beginning to end, one song flowing seamlessly into the next, and quite an accomplishment considering it was recorded during several years on three different continents (America, Australia and Sweden), where the four band members were living. Repeated listenings reveal layer upon layer, as The Church create lush soundscapes of swirling, shimmering electric and accoustic guitars, sweeping keyboards, subtle and elegant drums, violin, viola and half-sung/half-spoken lead vocals – all wrapped in drummer Tim Powles’ ingenius production.

After Everything Now This is a psychedelic album, albeit a contemporary and fresh one, successfully blurring the line between the past and the present, and should be equally accessible and appealing to old fans and newcomers alike. The majority of this exquisite, intoxicating album is mellow, but there’s a vibrant tension in the undertones of much of the music and Steve Kilbey’s intriguing vocal delivery. After Everything Now This showcases some of his most captivating vocals and the entire album resonates with warmth, sincerity and depth. Kilbey’s a master at turning a phrase, delivering an interesting lyric here and there that gets stuck in your head, and guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes weave an atmospheric, seductive sound so subtle and unified that it seems almost telepathic in its execution. The musicianship of The Church testifies to a band that – after years of having played music together – fully understand how to play off each other’s personal strengths.

One of the group’s greatest strengths as a unit is their ability to convey drama and intensity without resorting to bombastic sound effects and production values – a quality that is apparent from the very first notes of the opening track Numbers. A sole electric guitar creates an atmosphere of tense anticipation. Then drums and bass kick in, and as Kilbey starts to sing, the trembling timbre of a second electric guitar effectively sets an ominous tone. As always, Steve Kilbey’s lyrics are mystical and ambiguous, but they seem to deal with warfare and Apocalypse, the title and the chorus implying a countdown to the end of it all (“1 law for the officers / 1 for the gentleman / 2 bad you 3 know what it’s 4 / 5 for this awful dive / 6 for the genetics / 7 for the lucky pricks who went into heaven”). With a strangely uplifting chorus despite its dark subject matter, After Everything is a pensive rumination on loss, regret and mortality, what could’ve been and never will be (“Here is a child playing in a garden / Here is an old man with a broken heart / Here comes a train to take you away / It all goes round and round and comes back to the start”). Melodic and engrossing, with chiming guitars, subtle synth and Kilbey’s understated yet expressive bass, this song has long since become a fan favorite, and deservedly so.

After a short intro of distorted guitars (accompanied by a violin), The Awful Ache suddenly turns into a slow, almost waltz-like number. The story paints some beautifully evocative and bitter-sweet images of a woman, who’s been mourning her dead lover for too long, trying to forget him by drinking and sleeping with strangers. While she feels like a ghost of her former self, the ghost of her dead lover is still around, mourning his own loss (“And in her bedroom there's a mirror there / Sometimes it don't reflect a thing / And from the street he sees her silhouette / And he can't forget”). In the heartbreaking finale of the last verse his ghost has to come to terms with the fact that his ex-lover is finally moving on (“Esmerelda walks on down to the cemetery / And he's waiting for her in the shade / With the angels and the sad old trees, patiently / But she walks right past his grave”).

The ghostly and otherworldly Night Friends is a master class in how to stage a haunting scene in virtue of simple effects and stripped production. The understated instrumentation includes Latin American shakers (maracas or cabasas), discreet piano and subtle, sweeping synth. Peter Koppes’ Pink Floyd/David Gilmour-inspired electric guitar adds a soulful texture, and Kilbey’s hypnotic lead vocal gives rise to an aura of mysticism. The cryptic lyrics can be interpreted on different levels; most likely they’re about someone who’s dying, and now ghosts are appearing (“Night friends / Coming through the mirror / Sliding down the light / Night friends / Arriving in the garden”) to take that person to “the other side” (“Watching, you've been waiting / For the other worlds to sync up to our own”). Then again, the words could also be about a parallel universe connecting with ours (2002’s collection of outtakes from these sessions is an excellent companion piece with the clever title Parallel Universe). Reprieve is an impressively structured song that ebbs and flows, ascends and descends, accentuated by trembling cymbals and varied guitar sound textures, both soft and edgy, smooth and distorted (including backwards guitar). These are just some of the awe-inspiring tracks on After Everything Now This, one of The Church’s most accomplished albums. This is music that deserves to be played loud or listened to through headphones. Steve Kilbey:”The fact that we can still make a good album after 20 odd years that’s got as much love in it as this one vindicates our continued existence as a band for me.”

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