// Album Recommendation

The Church

Uninvited, Like The Clouds

(2006)

"I hope somebody listened
And heard another world..."

 

Uninvited Like The Clouds by The Church

The Church have a very distinct sound and style. Steve Kilbey’s semi-detached though strangely impassioned vocals, his cryptic stream of consciousness lyrics and soulful bass playing, and the exciting, awe-inspiring guitar interplay between the immensely talented Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, are instantly recognizable and familiar trademarks, yet still evolving with each new album release. This ongoing evolution ensures that each new album -- despite delivering more of the richly textured and lush soundscapes that we have come to expect from this excellent band -- separates itself from their other albums, all of which stand on their own, with specific production touches, colors, nuances and atmospherics attached to them. And Uninvited, Like The Clouds is no exception. If anything, this album stands out even more compared to their other releases, as it is their most colorful and diverse -- perhaps at the expense of being an equally cohesive album. It's almost as if Uninvited, Like The Clouds consists of sessions for two different albums (stylisticly, not production-wise), or two different EPs, as if they were perhaps aiming to satisfy two "different" fan bases; those who are fans of their straightforward, Alternative Rock-Pop songs of the '80s (the first six tracks), and those who are fans of their more experimental, psychedelic period of the '90s and onwards (the last six songs).

If this was actually the case, it would certainly have been understandable in consideration of their growing frustration with the less than satisfying sales numbers and the much undeserved lack of buzz, no doubt further exacerbated by the greater commercial success of many much less talented artists. Presumably, it’s this frustration that prompted Steve Kilbey to take a stab at the vacuous products of the entertainment industry in the song Overview ("Don't pitch me the script / I've got a suggestion for the end of it.”). As with the majority of Kilbey's lyrics the meaning is open to interpretation. He could be referring to the superficiality and predictability of Hollywood and how much more interesting the stories and endings would be, if he called the shots. Or he could mean it literally -– that it's just yet another shallow and pointless script or Reality-TV concept that deserves to be destroyed before some money-hungry Movie/TV Executive green-lights the project.

True to tradition, The Church open the album with a particularly powerful track. With its intense, ambitious and complex build-up and pure raw passion, Block is impressive and intriguing. Released as the album’s first single (on an EP), it was highly uncommercial, but to the already converted it was an instant classic. Kilbey's fascinating lyrics seem to deal with how difficult it is to maintain faith and remain true to oneself in this confusing, absurdly greedy and frequently disheartening day and age ("Thank you to the Lord who created all this / There's a whole lotta hurt before you get to the bliss / Why, even Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss / But that was long before that he got in showbiz”).

Other noteworthy tracks during the first half of the record are second single Easy (promo only), an up-tempo, acoustic guitar-driven, summery Pop song, and third single Unified Field (promo only), another catchy electric guitar-based Pop song with a recurring keyboard motif. The edgy Space Needle features a typically off-kilter Kilbey lyric ("Getting kinda famished with all this talk of famine”). The first half of the record ends with Marty-Willson Piper's melodic, soulful and slightly bluesy She'll Come Back For You Tomorrow, which would surely have received a fair amount of radio airplay, if it had been released as a single. There’s not a wasted note or lyric in this song, perhaps his finest moment as a singer/songwriter.

The second half of the record is much more introverted, relying heavily and successfully on dynamics and atmospherics. Pure Chance is a slow, spacey track with a breathtaking climax of gently rolling waves of shimmering guitars, and Never Before is a dramatic and epic piece whose psychedelic sonics owe a debt to late 60's / early 70's Pink Floyd. The experimental Real Toggle Action is the album's "black sheep", its least tuneful composition (in a conventional sense), but what it may lack in melody, it more than makes up for in sheer creativity, a song so unorthodox, playful and seemingly off-the-cuff, it ends up being one of the album's most interesting and enjoyable compositions. Jingle-jangle guitars chime to the sound of a somber, captivating keyboard, as Untoward (the second half’s only up-tempo number) takes off, graced by Kilbey's ethereal voice and lyrics that seem to deal with either reincarnation (“Lifespan extensions” and “Forever living”) or travelling through a parallel universe (“Coordinates locked in / Journey Begun”) from one life to the next, with a renewed sense of hope.

The album's last two tracks are the most sparse, but no less efficient for it. The feather-light Day 5 floats on a soft, lilting breeze of whispers and gently strummed acoustic guitars. The sudden and abrupt ending contrasts starkly -– and to great effect -– with the otherwise smooth, understated song and comes as a surprise, as Kilbey raises his voice and exclaims: "I pulled on my suit and exited quietly". The blissful Song To Go, which features no guitars aside from a bass, ends the album on a high note, Kilbey's distorted vocals summing up the purpose and pay-off of his band's evocative, otherworldly and timeless music: "I hope somebody listened / And heard another world..."

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