Admit it. You’ve totally neglected the Church‘s post-Arista records output, and the fact that they’re closing in on nearly two dozen records surprises you. I’m not sure what prompts a band to stay together as long as the Church, but I do know their chemistry is as such that they probably haven’t released a bad record in all that time, and with their most recent—Untitled #23—they sound even better than just being consistent. Indeed, it’s an album that finds them curiously inspired, exploring the nether regions of seductive guitar textures and layers of high-altitude chill.
Above everything is Steve Kilbey’s unmistakable voice—slight, comforting, and eerily ageless. What’s curious is how his understated delivery belies a pretty capable lyricist. As a matter of fact, nearly everything about Untitled #23 is understated, and it’s easy to let its greatness get overlooked.
On the way to Chicago, The Church’s van blew a tire in Iowa. The members were fine-they made their way into the city eventually and they performed a nice set in front of a respectable crowd of adoring fans at the House of Blues on Saturday night-but what is remarkable about this story is that The Church, after 30 years of rock and roll, are still required to tour in a van.
We’re not talking about a punk band that’s expected to use such transportation as a sign of legitimacy. Hell, we’re not even talking about a band that’s peddling a nostalgia show to county fairs across America well past their prime. What we have with The Church is a fully functional and relevant neo-psychedelic rock band that paved the way for more famous chart-toppers that have recently found press by plagiarizing Joe Satrianiand dissing Miley Cyrus.
After reaching their commercial apex with Starfish, the band has continued to release albums for two decades since their heyday (pun intended) with equal verve, but to a diminishing fan base. There is no logical explanation for this; their albums have been consistent and consistently good and-as The Church’s performance at the House of Bluesin Chicago indicated-they’ve turned their years of experience into a transcendental live show.
Like his band The Church, guitarist Marty Willson-Piper has been releasing solo material for quite some time to lessening exposure and diminishing returns. What makes this fact so disappointing is that MWP has made dramatic improvements to his solo albums with each subsequent release. One of his first solo records, Art Attack, sounds little more than a collection of demo recordings conveniently packaged to take advantage of The Church’s (then) popularity. Since then, The Church’s and Marty Willson-Piper’s stock has plummeted while the overall quality of their offerings has increased. So it is with a heavy heart that I report his most recent record, Nightjar, is good enough to receive more praise than it will sadly receive.
It’s hard to explain why this is, as MWP (and The Church, for that matter) have yet to release a bad album and Nightjar is quite simply the best solo album that Marty Willson-Piper has released.