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"I followed you to the ends of this earth
Where the hollow go before their god
I swallowed your words that I overheard
In a shallow slumber
Your number just came up."
By Steve Kilbey’s own admission, he and Martin Kennedy are very different individuals; he has described their personalities as: “Hedonistic, drug-addled singer meets up with quiet, reserved musician a few good years his junior”. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. The chemistry between All India Radio’s Martin Kennedy and The Church’s Steve Kilbey is undeniable they’ve found their own voice. Hence the title Inside We Are The Same. Kilbey/Kennedy’s previous collaboration (their third), You Are Everything (2013), was their most accomplished album yet; this was where Kilbey and Kennedy melted together as one, and the marriage of music, lyrics, and vocals meshed seamlessly and truly played to the Australian duo’s strengths. Not only does Inside We Are The Same pick up where You Are Everything left off, it also expands on Kilbey/Kennedy’s soundscapes by virtue of an abundance of inspired and entrancing sonic textures as well as some unexpected new musical directions.
Inside We Are The Same is the first album of theirs to contain a couple of tracks that are considerably more fast-paced, dynamic, and hard-hitting than any other songs on their three earlier releases — which all largely explored low-to-midtempo compositions — and it’s thrilling and refreshing to hear this edgier, rockier side of the duo: The riveting Amenia combines otherworldly, spacey synth sounds with an insisting New Wave guitar riff, a blistering solo, and a skyrocketing chorus that explodes in a brilliant cascade of flares and star-like sparks. The equally exhilarating Oh My Glad is driven forward by thumping bass, buzzing electronic effects, a poised spoken word sequence, and a dazzling instrumental passage consisting of ringing electric guitars that bring to mind the Space Rock of The Church.
But the main focus is still on the dreamy, mesmerizingly languid style that has served Kilbey/Kennedy so well and continues to do so. In a recent interview, Steve Kilbey said: “I love the music that he (Ed: Martin Kennedy) writes, and the way it makes me sing. But my favorites are the beautiful ballads”. And listening to these, it’s easy to hear why. Something special happens to Kilbey’s vocals, when they are inspired by Kennedy’s stunningly elegant and luxurious music. Almost gone is his semi-detached “speak-sing” approach, and instead a nuanced and expressive singer — with an endearing, achingly affecting tremble in his voice — has emerged.
Once again multi-instrumentalist Martin Kennedy wrote all the music and played all instruments (except as noted), and with Inside We Are The Same, he’s outdone himself and added several more Kilbey/Kennedy classics to the duo’s gilt-edged song catalog: The fragile, bittersweet beauty of Elude; Ho Chi Min’s captivating, crystal-clear synth-piano; the gorgeous acoustic ballad Once, where Kilbey is joined by Kennedy’s 12-year-old daughter, Hollie, towards the end of the song; the haunting vintage synth and tremelo guitar effects of Shegaze; This Is The Universe, which mixes Kennedy’s backing vocal with Kilbey’s vocoder-processed voice to create a David Bowie-esque, slightly retro sci-fi feel, only to catch the listener off-guard with a towering school choir; Swansea’s sparkling guitar lines and subtle electronic flourishes; and the heartfelt This Merciful Blur, a Pink Floyd/David Gilmour-inspired track featuring a talented, anonymous gun-for-hire guitarist. For those of us who never really expected Kilbey/Kennedy to be much more than a one-off side project, their continued collaboration is a gift to all fans and one that keeps on giving. Inside We Are The Same is as close to perfection as any musician can hope to get — a thing of rare beauty.