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.