Photobucket

The Church – A Retrospective

The Church have been one of the most influential and also widely forgotten bands in the history of music.  They’ve been confirmed as influences from bands such as Radiohead, and The Twilight Singers to Sia, along with many others.  1981 saw the release of their debut album Of Skins and Heart in the past 30+ years since that release they’ve broken up, gotten back together, released lush opulent albums and complete shit.  They’ve endured success but mostly left their mark in the land of obscurity, except for the chosen few who understand the depth of their music.

What I have compiled is a rank order of their albums from worst to best.  Now, before I begin I must state that I have come up with certain criteria in coming up with the albums that are to be reviewed and ranked.  The Church has many more albums besides this 16 here.  I have decided not to include albums of instrumental material (Bastard Universe, Jammed) I did not include albums of previously unreleased material and B-Sides (A Quick Smoke at Spots, Beside Yourself, etc.) or albums that include music that has been remixed and rerecorded. (El Momento Descuidado/Siguiente, Parrallel Universe)  Even though most of these albums include new material, I can’t really consider them albums, and I mean this in the most flattering way I know how.  The Church have always created albums that work together as a cohesive whole.  Even their album of covers, A Box of Birds works in this way.  A lot of people may have never heard of The Church and maybe my two cents will get those people to pick up an album or two, or at least know where to start.

 

#17 – Sometime Anywhere 1994

Pretty much a disaster in every way, except for a few standout tracks, this middle-eastern themed album consisted of only two members of The Church.   The album seems to jump all over the place losing sense of itself along the way.  The special release includes 7 other tracks pushing this overblown album to around an hour and forty-five minutes. The ironic thing is this was the first Church album I ever picked up and fell in love with for a time.  That being said you may find something special in this release.  This one is most likely for serious fans only, except I highly recommend downloading the amazing track Two Places at Once immediately.

Standout Songs – Two Places at Once, My Little Problem, The Maven

 

Grade: C –

 


 

#16 – Remote Luxury 1984

Originally released as two EP’s (Remote Luxury, and Persia), this 1984 release has some great songs on it, but it also has the worst Church song ever (Maybe These Boys).  It’s a very lighthearted mix of songs carrying on in the same style and tradition as past releases, but the album seems more like a collection of b-sides and new tracks thrown together at the last minute.  This one is definitely for hardcore fans only

Standout Songs – A Month of Sundays, Shadow Cabinet

 

Grade: C

 

 

 

 

#15 – A Box of Birds1999

A Box of Birds is a cover album of artists that have influenced The Church over the years.  It is their attempt to put their own stamp on some great songs.  The album succeeds but never really does anything truly new with the songs.  I would only purchase this one if you are truly a huge fan of The Church.  It does have some great versions of some classics, but other than that there is not much to the album as a whole.

Standout Songs – The Porpoise Song, The Faith Healer, Cortez the Killer

 

Grade: C+

 

 

 

 

#14 – Magician Among the Spirits (…Plus Some)1996

MATS was released twice, once in 1996 and a re-release in 1999 that included 3 extra songs that replaced two other songs.  The extra songs on the re-release definitely add to the overall enjoyment of the album.  The album is The Church’s most haunting and bleak to date, and also probably their most orchestral.  This album is definitely for die-hard fans only and you have to be in the right mood to get through the majority of the songs that push 6 minutes and above. What I mean by that is you have to be downright depressed.  It is a niche album, that I’m not going to lie, I definitely spun once or twice while down in the dumps, and it definitely did the trick.

Standout Songs – Welcome, Comedown, Sads

 

Grade: C+

 

 

 

#13 – Heyday1985

The Church followed up 1984’s disappointing Remote Luxury, with their most ambitious work up to that point.  For the first time Horns and other woodwinds were used to give the songs more texture and depth.  This doesn’t make Heyday a great album unfortunately.  There are glimpses of genius at points, but most of the songs fall kind of flat.  This album definitely shows that the band was beginning to change their sound and go for more complex, and at times, much heavier riff based songs than before.  It is an important transitional album and should be appreciated as such.

Standout Songs – Columbus, Tantalized, Disenchanted

 

Grade: B –

 

 

 

#12 – Gold Afternoon Fix 1990

Gold Afternoon Fix is both great and quite disappointing at the same time for an album.  After wide success of Starfish this follow up was pushed heavily by the record label, and was also home to a large amount of internal conflict with the band.  Drummer Richard Ploog was reportedly left off numerous tracks and replaced by a drum machine to duplicate his sound.  You can hear the stiffness in the album, and it is much colder than previous releases.  You can also hear some great songs on hear though, that truly stand out in The Church catalog.  The tensions within the band would soon take their toll on future releases.

Standout Songs – Metropolis, Terra Nova Cain, Grind

 

Grade: B

 

 

 

 

#11 – Back With Two Beasts – 2005

Back With Two Beasts is the companion piece to Uninvited, Like the Clouds released in 2006.  For me you can tell the album sounds like the band getting ready to release what would be one of their finest albums.  The album shows the more experimental side of Forget Yourself while starting to lean towards the more radio friendly tracks off of Uninvited, Like the Clouds.  As an album I don’t think it’s nearly as good as either of those albums, but it has one of the best Church songs in my opinion with Pearls.  It also has one of the most bloated songs in the Church catalog, Night-Sequence.  This is an album that I initially did not put on the list for some reason, and thanks to reader James Thompson, I have corrected my mistake.

Standout Songs:  Pearls, Snowfaller, Saturation

 

Grade: B

 

 

 

#10 – The Blurred Crusade 1982

The Sophomore album from The Church picks up right where their debut left off.  It has the same textures and poppy sound as the first album, but the majority of the songs are not nearly as good.  There are a few great ones, but also a number of mediocre songs and misses as well.  The album starts and ends as strong as any Church album out there, the guts are the weak portion.  Overall though you can really begin to see that The Church has begun setting out to make an album, not just great pop songs thrown together on an album, and there is a big difference between the two.

Standout Songs: Almost With You, When You Were Mine, Don’t Look Back

Grade: B

 

 

#9 – Priest = Aura1992

 

The Church begin to truly push the artistic envelope with this release.  This is the first album of theirs that truly plays itself out like a movie, dramatic in every sense.  Songs begin to start pushing the 7-9 minute mark, and are written and recorded with a texture and depth that had not been seen yet up to this point.  The album seems to fall flat, but in hindsight it is almost a necessity that the band begins to work out some themes that will greatly add to their success in future releases.  There are some truly great moments on the album but during its progression there are some brutally tiring moments that make you question the new movement of the band.  Like all Church albums though, this still has some truly stand out tracks.

Standout Songs – Aura, Feel, Film

 

Grade: B

 

 

#8 – Of Skins and Heart1981

From the momentum building opener of, For A Moment We’re Strangers, to the powerful outro of Bel-Air, this debut from the Australian rockers does not dissapoint.  It lands somewhere in between an Echo and the Bunneyman album, and some of Midnight Oil’s finer works.  It’s got that springy spongey, 80’s new wave sound.  The hits are there, but the thing that stands out is this album is much more ambitious then most of the works that came out of the 80’s.  You even got a nice little piece of prog new wave thrown in there with the 7 minute long, Is This Where You Live.  You can already what type of band The Church was going to become, but you just can’t quit put your finger on it yet.

Standout Songs: Bel-Air, For a Moment We’re Strangers

Grade: B+

 

 

 

#7. Hologram of Baal1998

After serious bouts of experimentation during the bands last works, this album is back to the basics creating ethereal pop songs that tantalize.  There are just some great standout tracks that stand-up on their own in this outing. This 98’ release is much less of a concept album and is really The Church going back to their roots, and also trying to re-invent themselves and modernize their sound at the time.  Baal is a framework for every great Church album to come, and truly ends the drought of a string of some of the weaker Church albums available.

Standout Songs – Anaesthesia, Buffalo, Louisiana

 

Grade: B+

 

 

 

#6 – Séance1983

Séance definitely has a more ethereal dreamy feel to…I’m guessing this was on purpose.  For a long time this was my favorite Church album because it took me the better part of two years to track a copy down at my local Time Traveler music store in Ohio, and I think it cost something ridiculous like $30.  As I’m listening to this album again some 15 years after I purchased it, I can honestly say it is worth every penny.  It is home to my favorite Church song of all time It’s No Reason, and is tight as any Church album out there.  You’ve got a nice light intro song, and then crash right into speedy power pop triumph, and it doesn’t stop there. The album chugs along and I can honestly say is one of the true unheard gems of early 80’s pop.

Standout Songs: It’s No Reason, Electric,

 

Grade: B+

 

 

 

#5 – Forget Yourself2003

This follow up to the best Church album to date in my opinion continues with The Church’s same dreamy pop formula, except this time they are definitely bringing more of the rock.  Most of the songs on this album are rock riff intensive, but we still find time to bring some of those dreamy lazy mellow songs as well.  Much more whimisical and carnivalesque than 2001’s After Everything Now This, this release started to get critics to once again start taking a look at this Australian band that had been around for two decades now.  Some of the songs in the second half of the album do hit some slow stale points, but overall Forget Yourself is a triumph throughout.

Standout Songs – Maya, Appalatia, See Your Lights

 

Grade: A –

 

 

 

#4 – Uninvited Like the Clouds 2006

What begins in one of the tightest poppy albums of The Church’s career we are taken down a slow descent into a distant universe spiraling effortlessly out of control amongst the clouds.  There is never a dull moment on an album that can only be summarized as a journey from start to finish. Beautiful choruses and dreamy chords are abound in this album probably more than in any other album previous to this.  Traces of Pink Floyd can be heard throughout this album with The Church’s own original stamp behind everything they do.  This is definitely the album to pick up if you want to just be taken away for an hour or so.

Standout Songs – Unified Field, She’ll Come Back For You Tomorrow, Easy, Overview

Grade: A

 

 

 

#3 – Untitled #23 – 2009

For me this album is a blend of everything they did right with Forget Yourself and Uninvited Like the Clouds. It has a bunch of great standout tracks but also all of these swirling dream pop songs that just take you away.  It’s amazing to me that this late in the game The Church are still able to create albums with such depth and originality.  Their most recent release is easily one of the strongest in their catalog.

Standout Songs – Pangea, Anchorage, Operetta

Grade: A+

 

 

 

#2 – After Everything Now This2001

After Everything Now This is as poignant and beautiful album as you could ever possibly ask for.  It took The Church from being a band that made some strong albums in the 80’s and reinvented them as a band that is as important and fresh today as they were 20 years ago. The album reinvents itself along the way but still keeps you inside the framework of an iluscett dream.  It’s the perfect album to sink into on a rainy day and let the textures envelop you.

Standout Songs: Numbers, After Everything, Song For the Asking

 

Grade: A+

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1 – Starfish1988

We had to wait three long years in between Church albums before the delivered this masterpiece.  Home to probably the only Church song anyone really knows (It’s got frigging bag-pipes people!), Starfish is a poetic tour de force from beginning to end.  The album waxes and wanes gliding along effortlessly from song to song.  At times hauntingly beautiful, at other times down right rocking this is THE Church album to start with, and is essential to any music lovers collection.  Without this album I’m not sure the band would still be around today.

Standout Songs – Under the Milky Way, Antenna, Reptile

 

Grade: A+



2 Responses to “The Church – A Retrospective”

  • Relayer71:

    I’m amazed you’ve included the newer albums on your top 5, and I am also in agreement! The Church have continued to shock me by improving immensely with each release – something most bands around for as long as they have don’t bother to do. They continue to add fresh elements to their unique sound and it’s a bit sad they’re not as big as their contemporaries U2 and Simple Minds, two great bands that peaked long ago (though Simple Minds are faring better, I think).

    Anyway, good list. I only disagree greatly with Starfish at #1. That album is really good but has been surpassed by every album since Hologram Of Baal. After Everything and Untitled #23 are astonishingly good, Starfish doesn’t even come close. I think Starfish is the peak for their EARLY SOUND, a perfect culmination of that period. But as is evident, the band has continued to grow and sound even more original and unique than they did in the 80s.

    Your grades don’t match up to the comments on your lower ranked albums. For instance I think Gold Afternoon Fix more like a C or C-. But I agree with all your comments, especially the sound on this album. I think a remix of this album could help it – there are some good songs/ideas on the album. Anyway, great list!

    • hoydogg:

      Hey thanks for reading and leaving a comment! I just think Starfish is such a classic album and was such a huge turning point for them that it is their best album. Really looking forward to their new one!

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.