The Church

    El Momento Descuidado

    6

    The Church released its debut, Of Skins and Hearts,
    in April of 1981. The band has taken the bruises and lacerations
    that come with a quarter century in the music industry and,
    admirably, remain interesting and relevant artists. This acoustic
    collection – more than just an “unplugged” record – serves less as
    an alternative introduction to new fans and more as a love
    letter to those listeners likely to thrill at subtle changes in tempo
    and texture to already adored songs.

    [more:]

     

    The
    nine catalogue selections acoustically refitted for this collection
    span the Church’s career, beginning in ’81 with the band’s
    first hit, “The Unguarded Moment,” straight through to “Sealine”
    from 2003’s Forget Yourself. Both of these bookend tracks are
    highlights here. “The Unguarded Moment” opens the album with
    confidence, completely comfortable in its new skin,
    and “Sealine,” immense in its original form with frosty
    synths and swelling bass, succeeds without those qualities thanks to a
    strong melody that wouldn’t be out of place on an Echo and the
    Bunnymen album. “Almost with You,” from 1982’s The Blurred Crusade, also shines, sounding here like classic John Cale minus the weight of the Welshman’s heavy baritone.

     

    Of
    the five newly penned selections, “All I Know” is the winner, its
    bouncing piano, ghostly harmonica and a cloud-covered chorus
    buoyed by light mandolin flourishes. The real surprise, however, is the
    Mark Hollis-meets-Richard Butler sound of “Invisible.” Originally
    the plodding and muddled finale to 2002’s After Everything Now This,
    it’s been generously improved here with Peter Koppes’s spare piano
    and Tim Powles’s soft and improvisatory drums elevating
    the expectant melody into the rarefied atmosphere.

     

    Not everything works, though. The group applied a rushed studio process to the making of El Momento,
    recording instrumental tracks in three days and vocals in one or two
    takes. This quickstep method preserved a rumpled charm, but it
    also reveals the imperfections you would expect to hear on a
    round of the group’s demos. “Tristesse,” “Chromium” and “November”
    could have been sidelined to the betterment of the collection,
    and Steve Kilbey’s lyrics have never been a strong suit. His
    meandering mysticism often leads to clichés about waking dream states
    and women named Belladonna, keeping champions of the band on the
    edges of their seats at times, fingers crossed to ward off any
    potential lyrics about orcs or elves.

     

    The Church has always been a class act, and El Momento Descuidado doesn’t change that. Those only vaguely familiar with the group, however, should start with 1988’s Starfish or Buddha’s ’99 greatest-hits release, Under the Milky Way. Though
    this collection of re-interpretations and intermittent new material
    isn’t the best introduction to the band’s morose jangle rock, it is
    indicative of its expansive, and somewhat erratic, catalogue,
    comprised as it is of some very bright flares, some very suitable
    attempts and a wide-of-the-mark misstep or two.

     

    The Church Web site

    Cooking Vinyl Records’ Web site

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