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Music Review: The Church – Untitled #23

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Absolutely mesmerizing. I had no idea The Church still had a record like this in them. Untitled #23 is hands down their best since Heyday, and it gives that one a run for the money. I was so floored I began composing this review before the disc even ended.

One of the things that makes these songs so good is their textured sound. The majestic pop of “Already Yesterday” or “Under The Milky Way” was a thing of beauty, no question. But that style dated very quickly, which is one of the reasons they had such difficulty following up their early success.

The atmospheres The Church toyed with back in the day have now fully matured. Untitled #23 is a dark dream of a record, hypnotic almost. The opening track “Cobalt Blue” draws the listener in immediately. With Marty Willson-Piper’s chiming guitars framing Steve Kilbey’s haunting refrain “Let it go, let it go” the results are riveting.

“Pangaea” and “Space Saviour” continue the mood, but it is with “On Angel Street” that this record becomes triumphant. It is a film noir journey through Kilbey’s subconscious, as he ruminates on a relationship’s end. This is the most personal song I have heard in ages, an achingly beautiful piece of music.

“Anchorage” is another peak, the interplay between the band is just incredibly tight as the song builds to it’s climax. “Operetta” closes things out as they began, with swirling guitars framing stream of conscious lyrics, as only The Church can do.

Given the band’s spotty record since Starfish, I thought they might have front loaded the best tracks, and I kept waiting for the clunkers to appear. There are none on Untitled #23. To record what is quite possibly their best album ever after nearly 30 years together is an extraordinary achievement.

It is also one hell of a record. I wish I knew the significance of the title, but like everything else here, it really does not matter. All that matters is the music, and in that regard The Church have hit a home run.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • eek

    “I wish I knew the significance of the title”

    It’s their 23rd album (counting the Sing Songs/Remote Luxury/Persia reissue as an album…or not counting that one and counting Beside Yourself). Actually depending on what one counts as an album there can be several more or one or two less, but it’s close enough. 😉

    And I agree — it is a wonderful album.

  • Tom L.

    Great review. Easily one of their top 3 releases and indeed amazing after nearly 30 years to have done such a thing.

  • darkthirty

    I’ve been a fan since “The Blurred Crusade” many years ago, and I had the same reaction you did – this new album is so damn good it’s a bit hard to believe they had it in them. I mean, the last few albums had their moments, but this really is a classic. Certainly album of the year, too bad many folks won’t hear it. This should be slobbered over on Pitchfork and the like. What a beautiful record.

  • Dave Mallett

    Spotty output since Starfish? Perhaps you didn’t hear what is undoubtedly the band’s masterpiece, Forget Yourself. And leave us not forget the sublime moments from Magic, Priest=aura, Hologram, after everything….the list goes on..I’m thrilled that you love the new record, but the truth is their quality has hardly abated.

  • Mark Wingler

    “That style dated very quickly.” Hmmmmm. not sure what the author is talking about at all here. While I appreciate the deserved positive review, I’ve thought any of the Church’s materials as dated. Rather, timeless in my opinion.

  • Mark Wingler

    plese insert ‘never’ between I’ve & thought.


  • Bob Singer

    Make sure you get out and see the church on tour this summer! Their dates for the summer tour are:

    June 10: Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA
    June 11: The Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood, CA
    June 12: Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
    June 14: Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
    June 15: The Triple Door, Seattle, WA
    June 18: Gothic Theatre, Englewood, CO
    June 19: Harrah’s Kansas City, North Kansas City, MO
    June 20: House of Blues Chicago, Chicago, IL
    June 21: Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, MN
    June 23: Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
    June 24; The Intersection, Grand Rapids, MI
    June 25: The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI
    June 26: Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
    June 27: Rex Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
    June 28: The STate Theatre, Falls Church, VA
    June 30: Ram’s Head Onstage, Annapolis, MD
    July 1: The Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
    July 2: Showcase live, Foxboro, MA
    July 3: Tupelo Music Hall, Londonderry, NH
    July 5: Studio Theatre at Hamilton Place, Hamilton, ON
    July 7: Tralf Music Hall, Buffalo, NY
    July 8: The Fillmore @ Irving Plaza, New York, NY
    July 9: The Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT
    July 10: Swyer Theatre, Albany, NY
    July 11: Csco Ottowa Bluesfest, Ottawa, ON
    July 12: Imperial Theatre, Quebec City, QC

    This new album is amazing, these guys just keep on getting better.