Southern California finally had a decent sunny weekend, not quite Summer-worthy. But at least well-situated in the Spring climate and spirit. So I’ve got a bit of verve and motivation to tackle one of the posts I’ve had lingering in the queue for over a month. The band is veteran Australian indie rock outfit The Church, who performed back at the beginning of May at the Regent Theatre.
These guys probably aren’t on a lot of people’s radar, despite having been around since 1980. But there’s a pretty good chance you’re familiar with “Under the Milky Way,” an indie single that broke the Top 40 in the states back in ’88. Yeah, I realize that’s pretty old. Yet it still makes the rounds on internet, indie, and college radio with some frequency. I mean, it’s essentially a classic of alternative rock. Anyway, this all matters, because The Church have been celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Starfish,” their most popular album, and the source of said single, with the release performed live in its entirety. Technically, last month’s Regent show on 05.03.19 would mark 31 years. But the tour started last year, so fair enough.
I actually arrived a few songs into “Starfish,” catching the tail end of “Under the Milky Way.” For once, a band actually started on time, 8pm of all things. But having seen them before, I wasn’t too broken up over it. You see, I like “Starfish” as much as the next person. I even saw the original tour. But when it comes to The Church performing live, I’m actually a bigger fan of their more progressive psychedelia, from the soft and spacey, to the loud and rapturous.
Also, only two of the original members for that album were present, guitarist/keyboardist Peter Koppes and frontman/bassist Steve Kilbey, who’s been the one constant throughout. Original guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper left the band back in ’13, replaced by Ian Haug. And although he’s the next longest running member, Tim Powles, who plays drums, missed “Starfish” by six years, joining in ’94. Of course, none of this hurts or hinders their performance. And all of “Starfish” sounded as a relevant and rockin’ as it could for its age. But really, for me, its more of a completist nostalgia thing, particularly when an album is performed from front to back.
Nevertheless, I’ve included a couple of my more favored tracks from “Starfish” as part of this collection of footage, “Reptile” and “Hotel Womb.” They’re two of the concluding tracks to what would’ve been side B, since vinyl was still the predominant media platform back then … next to radio airplay, of course. I think I gravitate towards these two for the same reasons I’ve stated above. I enjoy the more alternative side of The Church, if this is what you’d call it. Essentially, I still think of them as rock, flavored by a softer, melodic form of psychedelia, and hints of dream-pop, when some of the slower numbers kick in. There’s even a sound akin to shoegaze, when these tracks drift into instrumental guitar jams, which happens quite a bit in their live performance.
Here’s “Reptile” and “Hotel Womb” from “”Starfish.” Considering it’s the Regent, the sound’s actually pretty decent. Sometimes, it can be a mixed bag.
The Church perform “Reptile” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
The Church perform “Hotel Womb” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
And for good measure, here’s an embed of the ’88 album “Starfish.”
The Church’s 1988 album “Starfish.”
Speaking of mixed bags, Kilbey dubbed the second set of the night as the “Mixed Bag”. Essentially, this was defined as an hour and a half of whatever the hell The Church felt like playing. It also meant I was probably going to hear a fair bit of my favorite material. And for the most part, I did.
There was a substantial selection of oldies, like “Unguarded Moment” and “Metropolis,” the former an underground classic, the latter a track that always comes to mind when I think of their early years (i.e. the first dozen years or so). Plus, “Metropolis” comes from the album “Gold Afternoon Fix,” which is when I first interviewed Kilby and Wilson-Piper, back when I was a music journalist. So nostalgia again …
Here’s both “Unguarded Moment” and “Metropolis” from the “Mixed Bag” set.
The Church perform “Unguarded Moment” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
The Church perform “Metropolis” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
And then there’s the more psychedelic stuff, one of which dates back to ’85, titled “Tantalized,” and a couple from the last decade “Toy Head” and “Day 5.”
“Tantalized” is a fairly up-tempo rockin’ track for The Church.” It’s got tons of energy, and rips and roars like a progressive endless kaleidoscopic riff. It never gets abrasive though. I’m not sure The Church could. Even at their most raucous, they keep things fairly smooth and fluid.
Check out “Tantalized.”
The Church perform “Tantalized” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
“Toy Head” and “Day 5” wrapped up my filming efforts. These two represent some of the more spacey freeform psychedelic drifts that I find to be among my favorite offerings from The Church. The former is from the 2014 release “Further Deep,” the latter from 2006 album “Uninvited, Like the Clouds.”
Both represent a good barometer for where The Church have been in the last 10-15 years. And it’s a place I naturally gravitate towards. Sure, I love the more immediate stuff. Always have and always will. But the more progressive, challenging moments are where I find my mind mostly wandering. There’s just a (I dare say) more organic, naturalistic quality to it. It feels less structured, like it just sort of happened in spontaneous real-time. And that’s cool.
Here’s “Toy Head” and “Day 5,” which concludes all the footage I have.
The Church perform “Toy Head” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
The Church perform “Day 5” at the Regent Theatre on 05.03.19.
The aforementioned tracks are by no means the entirety of The Church’s “Mixed Bag” set. So I’ve compiled the entire setlist from this portion of the show. I had to take “Tantalized” and “Unguarded Moment” from the live recording “A Psychedelic Symphony,” which celebrated their 30th anniversary (the band, that is) at the Sydney Opera House, performing alongside a a full orchestra. For some reason, those songs, nor their original albums, are included in Spotify’s library. So those tracks sound a bit different from their original recordings. Otherwise, it’s a perfectly solid collection of material from The Church, spanning the beginning all the way until now.