The Church - Untitled #23
There was a time when I would always be at the record store on Tuesday when one of my favorite bands released a new record. There was always this palpable anticipation about picking up a new CD, getting home and throwing it in the stereo. Maybe you had heard a single that whet your appetite, but chances were that ninety percent of the album was going to fall on virgin ears. But it seems like those days are long gone. I don't remember the last time I made it a point to pick up a new CD on the day it was released. Maybe it's that I have less free time than I did in my twenties. Maybe it's the distractions of adulthood that have toned down the importance of music in my life (it's still way up there, but my world no longer revolves around it). Or maybe it's that in these days of Myspace sneak previews and online leaks, new release day just doesn't have the same magic that it used to. Case in point... The Church is definitely one of my favorite bands, and have been for twenty years now. They released their 20th album, Untitled #23, in May, and I didn't get around to picking it up until last month. Wow.
So what has taken me so long to post a review of it? I'd love to say it's because I've been so busy the past few weeks, but that's not it. I kept putting off doing the write up to give the album another listen, hoping that something would jump out at me. And I guess I've finally resigned myself to the fact that it's just not going to happen. It's not that it's bad, it's just that over the years I've come to expect Church albums to be better than merely OK. It's full of most of the things we've come to expect from the guys... trademark guitar interplay, heavy on atmospherics, and Steve Kilbey's surreal lyrics and languid delivery. But what makes the band so special is that they combine all those things with memorable hooks, and the ear candy is in short supply this time out. "Space Saviour" has a cool vibe that would sound great with more song written around it, but without a chorus to go to it feels aimlessly repetitive. And after a month of listening to the album, that's still the only song that has stood out to me at all. The other nine tracks seem to sort of blend together, despite the album being peppered with appearances by six different guest musicians. Apparently there were a couple of more upbeat tracks recorded during the sessions, but they were relegated to the Pangaea EP in order to maintain album's mood. In my mind, Untitled #23 could have used the variety. It's probably a great record to get baked to, but if you're not 420 friendly it comes of as a bit uninspired, making the non-descript title oddly appropriate.
The Church - "Deadman's Hand" (mp3)