ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 28, 1990
By Steve Newton
The title of the latest Church album could be taken a couple of different ways, depending on whether you gravitate more toward the hippie or the yuppie lifestyle. For ’60s counter-culture rejects, the phrase Gold Afternoon Fix might conjure images of lazy mid-days spent soaking up the sun and the finest illicit substances from Acapulco. For the more upscale, the words could refer to the stock market term regarding the price of gold, set every afternoon and fixed overnight.
In these days of censorial witchhunts and drug paranoia, the title’s misinterpretation could have repercussions. But Church vocalist Steve Kilbey isn’t too concerned whether people equate the title to the financial term or the “Just Say Yo!” approach.
“No worries about that,” he says, on the phone from Grand Rapids, Michigan. “If people put a little bit of underground into it, I think that’s all right. But it’s a real establishment phrase, you know.”
Tunes from Gold Afternoon Fix will be the main attraction when the band hits town next Thursday (July 5) for a show at the Commodore, the same venue the band played just more than two years ago. The album was produced in L.A. by veteran Tinseltown session-man Waddy Wachtel, who also twiddled the knobs on Starfish, the group’s sixth and best-selling LP (so far). Kilbey was overjoyed with the results that the former Linda Ronstadt and Keith Richards band-mate came up with this time around.
“It’s strange,” muses Kilbey, “because I listen to the record now and it’s almost mathematical in its perfection. Everything’s happening where it should be; it’s as if all the guitars and everything have become all these little machines working away in clockwork. Waddy was very instrumental in getting it to sound like that.”
The precision and directness Kilbey refers to is something of a switch for the Aussie band, which built its name on a psychedelic pop full of swirling guitars and soft pastel tones.
“I think for too long we’ve been sort of dreamy,” concurs Kilbey. “And after touring around the world for two years, meeting all the people I’ve met and going through all the things I’ve gone through, suddenly I’m filled with this desire to more or less tell it how it is. I don’t want to lose that surrealistic side that obviously attracted people to us in the first place, but now I think the time has come to get a bit more bite.”
Nowadays, when Kilbey wants to get ethereal and abstract on record he has the option of releasing a solo album, as he did recently with Remindlessness. “There’s all kinds of things on that album; it’s pretty strange actually. It’s a double album, and there’s some really long, meandering pieces. It’s absolutely nothing like the Church.”
The Church’s other primary members, guitarists/vocalists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, have also recorded solo albums recently, Rhyme and From the Well respectively. But Kilbey doesn’t believe that pursuing musical interests outside the sanctity of the Church would ever lead to the band’s disintegration.
“I think it would be the contrary, actually. I think people can do their own thing and then get back together in the Church again. It’s really more of a thing that would keep us together than pull us apart.”
The success of the Church’s previous album, which was egged on by the top-40 success of the slinky single, “Under the Milky Way”, has resulted in the band’s back catalogue being reissued in North America, and archetypal works such as The Blurred Crusade and Of Skins and Heart have found renewed sales in light of the Church’s more recent accomplishments at the till.
But the push to mainstream success has meant one major change in the structure of the band. Longtime drummer Richard Plogg called it quits shortly after the recording of Gold Afternoon Fix, and was replaced by former Patti Smith Group drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. Inquiring minds want to know: does the new line-up rock?
“With Jay Dee playing drums it’s a lot more solid,” enthuses Kilbey. “It’s kinda like a big machine rolling across the country, crushing people under it.”