Lucid Culture


CD Review: Steve Kilbey – Painkiller

His best solo album. Steve Kilbey, visionary frontman and main songwriter of legendary Australian art rockers the Church, usually saves his best material for the band. Some of the lush, intricately crafted songs here have the percussive insistence that characterized much of the band’s 1984 Remote Luxury album, others sound an awful lot like the neo-psychedelia of Brian Jonestown Massacre, which makes sense since Ricky Rene Maymi of that band is on this cd. Kilbey’s infrequent solo albums (this is his first in eight years) typically have a lo-fi charm, a mix of what often sound like sketches and outtakes, many of them acoustic, Kilbey playing most if not all of the instruments. But this is a full-band album, eight of its eleven tracks credited to the group Kilbey assembled for it (along with Maymi there’s Scott Von Ryper of the Black Ryder and Morning After Girls and William Bowden on electronics as well as Tim Powles from the Church on drums). While Kilbey’s signature sound has always been atmospheric, this is a new direction for him, equal parts retro and futurist and it works extremely well. As Kilbey calls it on his myspace, it’s “space rock,” richly layered with oscillating keyboards and what sound like a small city worth of guitar tracks fading in and out of the mix.


The cd begins with the fast, driving Outbound, Kilbey’s vocals impressively strong, even aggressive, what seems to be an escape anthem. He’s quick to insist that he’s “not what the man in the street supposes…not a real time being, it’s the shadow you’re seeing.” There’s an eerie, minimalist guitar solo with a Middle Eastern tinge. The next two tracks share the same fast 80s beat, Wolfe (with what sound like sarcastic faux Sonic Youth vocals) seemingly a slap at a monkey on the back (LOTS of drug references here), Celestial maintaining the sarcastic feel with watery late 80s Robert Smith style guitar.


Song for the Masking (a pun on Song for the Asking, a beautiful ballad from the 2001 Church album After Everything Now This) builds from insistent downstroke acoustic guitar, getting darker and murkier with umpteen layers of effects and…of course…backward masking. “Come on,” Kilbey gleefully intones as the next cut, Look Homeward Angel gets underway, basically a swirling one-chord jam: “Got a heart like mercury…got a silver lining hanging over me.” The wooziest and the most overtly retro, BJM-influenced of all the songs here, Spirit in Flame pounds along, slow and hypnotic. 


The best song on the album, the fleetingly gorgeous Forever Lasts for Nothing comes toward the end, a Kilbey classic that in a lot of ways sounds like a rewrite of Bel Air from the Church’s first album, Of Skins and Heart. Dating from the waning days of the Bush regime, it’s a call to arms, not something you’d expect here – to say that it packs a punch would be an understatement:


Standing at the junction of two great highways, post-industrial breeze

No one fucking cares about your broken heart, or your slow release…

I got a little plan, I’ll start acting like a man, you can act like me…

Just like a welcome mat you lay down on the floor

Just like the love for rich and fist for the poor…


There are also a couple of one-chord stoner jams including one really long one to close the album, ending with samples of a thunderstorm and what sound like whale songs. Fans of any kind of psychedelia from throughout the ages should get this; for Church fans, it’s a must-own. Kilbey’s blog is also worth bookmarking: his prose poems are often as insightful and savagely amusing as his song lyrics.      

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment