Release Date: May 12, 2009
Record label: Second Motion/Unorthodox
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
That slight trace of mystery and ambiguity in the title of Untitled #23 is a vague signal that the Church is returning to the spacy, hazy territory of their heyday on this, their 23rd album. The Church has never quite left this swirling psychedelia behind, but Untitled #23 has a delicate, suspended quality, floating at an elevated distance above earth. It's familiar yet not tired because the Church has a unified sense of purpose here, crafting tightly written songs that are then expanded and elongated when recorded, giving them an otherworldly quality.
Listening to the Church usually takes me back to the mid-'90s, when I used to go to goth/industrial nights in Philadelphia. They seemed to be the only nights out where a girl could actually hear the Smiths and dance and sway a bit. Other big goth-ish hits were the Church’s “Reptile” and “Under the Milky Way,” and I’ll always associate them with goth night too.
Patience is a virtue. If you disagree then you won’t ever appreciate the almost 30-year-old Aussie band the Church, much less their recent exemplar of dream rock patience, Untitled #23. Right from their 1981 debut, Of Skins and Heart, singer-lyricist Steve Kilbey established his trademark deep melancholic vocals and rather oblique (often dubbed “surrealist”) lyrics.
Next year, the Church will be thirty years old. The Sydney, Australia, quartet is among the longest-lived, most prolific bands of the last three decades, but in North America, they're pretty much known as a one-hit wonder for 1988's haunted, atmospheric single "Under the Milky Way". It's really not fair because, apart from the late 1990s, they've been consistently good, and LPs like Séance, Priest = Aura, and Heyday deserve to be heard in their entirety.