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Gold Afternoon Fix-- a new group from for The Church

GOLD AFTERNOON FIX

The Church.

Arista Records.

By SANDE CHEN

THE CHURCH IS BACK, but with a bite. According to lead vocalist Steve Kilbey, the latest album, Gold Afternoon Fix, represents a new approach for The Church, both musically and stylistically. In this album they produce a crisper sound with simpler, less esoteric lyrics. Yet even so, The Church still manages to retain the dreamy, surrealistic quality which made their albums so appealing in the first place.

The album features the work of lead guitarist Marty Willson-Piper. It's melodic, bright, and quite inspiring. His experimentation comes through in songs like "Grind," "Disappointed," and "Terra Nova Cain."

"Terra Nova Cain" also exemplifies the simpler but still impressionistic lyrics. Chief songwriter/bassist Steve Kilbey sings:

[el.5l][it1p,1p]

Turn down the gravity

This is all too heavy . . .

Just before the continent sank

You could still go outside

I was sitting on a harder frame

She pulled up and asked me if I needed a ride.

[el.5l][it0,0]

Compare this to "Hotel Womb" from Starfish:

[el.5l][it1p,1p]

Volcanoes pierce the air . . .

I paid 80 dollars for this wedding ring

I couldn't take it off if I tried

And the cactus sure tastes strange this week . . .

A sudden voltage in the night

Where the rain follows through.

[el.5l][it0,0]

In a way, much of the vivid imagery Kilbey's lyrics provoked are lacking from Gold Afternoon Fix, but his style is poetic and sensitive, simply more focused now. His lyrics still convey his visions, as in "There, smoke turns into serpents in the air" from "City."

Although Steve Kilbey wrote most of the lyrics, all the music was co-written, making Gold Afternoon Fix more of a Church collaboration than previous albums. Marty Willson-Piper's contribution, "Russian Autumn Heart," is a fine piece, levels above his "Spark" from Starfish. Guitarist Peter Koppes' "Transient" is driving and pleasant, but it is so easy to forget the lyrics and just listen to the music because everything meshes so well. His voice is just another instrument. In fact, this is essentially true of the entire album.

The new directness is most apparent on "You're Still Beautiful." Comments Kilbey, "I've wanted to get more of a bite into The Church on all levels -- I think for too long we've been sort of dreamy. . . . Three or four years ago I wouldn't have written that song, . . . but now I think the time has come and I want to get a bit more bite. Because life is full of nasty little surprises and I want to start conveying that." It is also evident in "Terra Nova Cain."

The first single, "Metropolis," is similar to previous efforts -- somewhat hazy and vague -- as in "Fading Away." "Disappointment" and "Laughing," two other songs, are slow, soulful, and fragile. In the same vein, "City" and "Monday Morning" are beautiful lullabies carefully conceived. The first song, "Pharaoh," is a true gem.

The Church has pieced together a really wonderful album. They will be touring the United States this year with Jay Dee Daugherty replacing longtime Church drummer Richard Ploog.