Sunday 24 April 2011

Church: KCRW Acoustic 24 03 88

Something suitable for Easter Sunday…

Along with REM, The Church were instrumental in showing me that Guitar music didn’t begin and end with Van Halen in the 80’s. They’ve had a long and fascinating history (beautifully detailed in 'No Certainty Attached - Steve Kilbey and The Church' by Robert Dean Lurie) and they’re still at it today. Their most recent album ‘Untitled 23’ had critics fawning over it and they’ve just completed a sell out tour of the States. But for me, their best work is in the mid-late 80’s. And that’s where we hear them in this recording.

Unplugged. Yeah, that word sends shivers down your spine, doesn’t it? I’m sure we all remember the endless footage of  panic-stricken  Guitarists trying to play proper chords on acoustic Guitars, Drummers flailing wildly on congas and Bassists manfully struggling with enormous acoustic Basses, or better yet, randomly plunking on upright Basses they have no clue how to play. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it reduced everyone to the level of an overpaid busker. But MTV loved it and everyone had a go. Some bands used it as an opportunity to recast their material in a totally different light (Nirvana) and some just pretended they were playing electric instruments (Pearl Jam), but the Church did it really well. This is probably because most of the material was written on an acoustic Guitar by a Bassist – nothing too tricky, but great melodies and memorable, simple tunes with clever, whole band arrangements.

So here we are- its 1988 and we’re at the legendary KCRW with the equally legendary Deidre O’Donoghue. The Church are on an American tour, plugging what was to be their breakthrough album – ‘Starfish’. If you’ve never heard it…I kind of envy you, as to hear it for the first time is like having your brain dropped in a warm bubble bath and then turbo charged. It’s ace. Anyhoo, here are the Anglo-Australian Alt-Psych-Rockers playfully dipping in and out of their back catalogue and being narcotically charming to a clearly in-awe O’Donoghue. A few months later, ‘Starfish’ went platinum thanks to the unexpected hit they had with ‘Under The Milky Way’ and the fact that they were in the right place at the right time. They had just the right amount of Geetar-slinging to reach a Metalhead or two, literate enough lyrics to reach the disenfranchised Goths and catchy tunes to reach the Pop-Rockers. A perfect storm. Sadly, they couldn’t maintain this level of success…but that’s a story for another day – and another post.

This is the complete, unexpurgated recording. Other versions are available in many places on the net (most notably as part of the ‘Acoustic Sermon’ boot), but the interviews and the between tune tomfooleries have been cruelly expunged. Not here. This is the whole thing from soup to nuts. It’s a lovely document of a band with the world at their feet.

('Under The Milky Way' on 'MTV Unplugged')

Church fans are amongst the most rabid and partisan fans in the world. They’re well served by a decent website, a great fansite and an almost daily blog by Steve Kilbey. The latter I advise checking out with caution as he can veer from essential to inconsequential – often in the course of a single posting. And don’t read the comments. They’re scary….

So kids, back-comb your hair, pop on some paisley and blow the dust off that acoustic bass you haven’t played since 1991 and enjoy the Pre-Raphaelite Alt-Pop-Rock of The Church….

Church: KCRW Acoustic 24 03 88

1. Introduction
2. Under The Milky Way
3. Antenna
4. Interview
5. Spark
6. Interview
7. Fly
8. Interview
9. Bel-Air
10. Interview
11. Jam 1
12. Jam 2 /Tristesse
13 Jam 3
14. Interview
15. A Month Of Sundays
16. Credits 


  1. "as he can veer from essential to inconsequential – often in the course of a single posting."

    That's because he's a nutter. And I say that with great affection.

  2. Hi eek! Being a long time lurker of the comment section of ol' SKs blog, I recognised your avatar...nice to see you here.

    He'd probably agree that he's a nutter. Sometimes I wish he wasn't quite so forthcoming as it messes with the mystique a bit. I also find myself either loving his writing or becoming frustrated with him. Just like life, I guess.

    Some of the regular commenters on that site scare me a bit...

    I love the Church and Kilbey is still a real hero of mine. But sometimes, I could just...

  3. Thanks again. Not only are you posting great stuff (for the most part), but I find your comments both enjoyable and insightful. You also have one of the best "You Might Also Enjoy..." section of the music bloggers.

  4. I'm very flattered...thank you DPSoO...

    I was inspired to do this by blogs like 'Wilfully Obscure', 'Commercial Zone', 'PPO' etc, so they had to be on my blogroll. 'Shoulda been huge' and '365 bands...' started at more or less the same time as this one and I'm delighted to have them along. They're passionate, informative and funny. And I've downloaded a TON of stuff thanks to them...and Burning Wood and (etc etc etc...)

  5. "Some of the regular commenters on that site scare me a bit..."

    ah, yeah. I've learned to just skip certain people. :-)

    "I love the Church and Kilbey is still a real hero of mine. But sometimes, I could just..."

    Give him a good shake and ask "what the fuck are you thinking??"

    Yeah...know that feeling....

    Good to find your blog!

  6. eek, right now, you are in my top five people in the whole damn world.

  7. Hey, Rushbo:

    From one Church fan to another: much obliged, my good man.

    Hey, eek:

    That's because he's a nutter. And I say that with great affection.

    You can see Steve in full flight in an acceptance speech he made when The Church were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. It's my personal favourite acceptance speech. Ever.