known for the shimmering "Under the Milky Way," their lone Top
40 hit, the Australian band the Church combined the jangling guitar-pop
of '60s icons like the Byrds with the opaque wordplay of frontman
Steve Kilbey to create a lush, melancholy brand of neo-psychedelia
rich in texture and melody. Formed in Sydney in 1980 by vocalist/bassist
Kilbey with guitarist Peter Koppes and drummer Nick Ward, the
Church recruited second guitarist Marty Willson-Piper before debuting
the following year with Of Skin and Heart, an evocative collection
highlighted by the ringing "The Unguarded Moment," a major success
After replacing Ward with drummer Richard Ploog, the group resurfaced
in 1982 with The Blurred Crusade, a stunning effort featuring
mature standouts like "Almost With You" and "When You Were Mine."
1983's Seance continued to refine the Church's atmospheric sound,
and the subsequent success of the EPs Persia and Remote Luxury
helped earn the band an American deal with Warner Bros., which
issued the excellent Heyday in 1986. After moving to Arista, the
Church teamed with famed session guitarists Danny Kortchmar and
Waddy Wachtel to record 1988's Starfish, their most artistically
and commercially successful effort to date. Highlighted by "Under
the Milky Way," the album also featured the minor hits "Reptile"
and "Spark," a marvelous pop blast penned by Willson-Piper.
The follow-up, 1990's Gold Afternoon Fix, failed to repeat the
success of its predecessor as the single "Metropolis" garnered
only minor airplay. Ploog left the Church prior to the release
of 1992's Priest : Aura, which featured former Patti Smith Group
drummer Jay Dee Daugherty; by 1994's Sometime Anywhere, only Kilbey
and Willson-Piper remained, recording with the aid of a drum machine.
When the album failed to crack the charts, Arista dropped the
group from their contract, and with new drummer Tim Powles, the
Church issued 1996's Magician Among the Spirits on the tiny White
label; a subsequent tour marked Koppes' return to the fold. Hologram
of Baal followed in 1998, and a year later the Church released
the covers collection Box of Birds. — Jason Ankeny