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ALBUM REVIEW: "Man Woman Life Death Infinity" by The Church

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Church – Man Woman Life Death Infinity (Unorthodox) 2017

Listening to the new album from The Church, I sensed that singer/bassist Steve Kilbey is moving his music in more of an ambient/psychedelic direction in the vein of his work with All India Radio’s Martin Kennedy, with whom Kilbey has worked on several projects in recent years.

And for this longtime Church fan, I’m perfectly comfortable with it, as new guitarist Ian Haug – who replaced longtime Church axman Marty Willson-Piper – gets increasingly comfortable with his role in the Australian quartet, alongside Kilbey, guitarist Peter Koppes and drummer Tim Powles.

That Kilbey/Kennedy vibe comes through on opener “Another Century” and dives even deeper with the aquatic-minded “Submarine,” the sort of song you listen to in your bedroom at night, with a lava lamp and some mind-altering substance(s).

Nature loves a winner / We’re gonna end up some creature’s dinner,” Kilbey warns. “Devil loves a sinner / You were on the menu / You’re just a beginner …

I turn the clock back in my mind 25 years, back to college, and listening to Priest=Aura in a friend’s dorm room and being thoroughly impressed with the band (which unbeknownst to me, was undergoing some personnel issues, particularly with Kilbey) and a song like “For King Knife” echoes that period of the band’s history, with swirling reverb and Kilbey’s otherworldly vocals, while Powles keeps things fairly grounded. This is still a rock band, after all.

And with the Eastern-inflected tambura textures, along with Powles’ unusual drum patterns, Kilbey seems to be really enjoying “Undersea” and the Notorious Byrd Brothers-styled psychedelic experimentation. A true standout on this 10-track collection.

“Before the Deluge” has a Starfish-era synth lolling in the background, while the guitars, bass and drums are up front, as if they are paying homage to their earlier selves.

I noticed a definite “water” theme over the course of the record. I wasn’t going to mention “Under the Milky Way,” but I couldn’t help it, listening to “I Don’t Know How I Don’t Know Why,” with it’s “Milky Way” outro guitar sounds. Clearly they know this and are having fun, all while reminding us that a “voyage beings with a single sail.” For someone who has had plenty of water-oriented dreams over the years, I can appreciate where the band is taking us.

On “Something Out There Is Wrong,” Kilbey speaks for many of us who sense something is askew here in the 21st century with “all the little gigabytes, what the fuck?” over a 12-string electric guitar and touches of piano and a jangly tambourine.

But beyond a technological dystopia, the band seems to be speaking not just about our modern society, but speaking on behalf of the planet, and how we are all connected – as the album title implies. But add Mother Earth to the list as well. We are all connected.

The Church also go the extra mile – in pretty much any direction, as it turns out.

Kilbey has long been a fearless lyricist and paints surrealistic pictures in your mind, while casting his aural spell in a way only Kilbey can. Their last album, Further Deeper, was a strong record, but Man Woman Life Death Infinity seems to be that next step on a journey that has proven to be quite remarkable, as far as the shelf-life of rock bands go. The creativity is definitely still there, and then some. 

Recall that The Church have outlasted a lot of their 80’s-era New Wave peers, and blazed their own trail into the musical unknown. And you know, it’s exciting to be able to join them on their trek, wherever it take us.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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