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The Church at the Magic Bag, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2019

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The Church has established plenty of landmarks during the past 39 years -- but perhaps none more enduring than its 1988 album "Starfish."

That was the record that put the Australian group, after four previous albums, on the international map. It had a big hit, "Under the Milky Way," but was also strong from start to finish, a peak achievement that gave the Church its best chart showings both in its homeland and in the U.S., where it was certified gold.

The Church began celebrating "Starfish's" 40th anniversary last year and has kept the party going into this year, though it's also playing plenty of material for the rest of its repertoire. And rest assured the group, now led by singer-bassist Steve Kilbey, is still an active concern, with every intention of making more new music to come...

Church drummer Tim Powles says by phone that "Starfish," which the group first played in its entirety back in 2012, is a pleasure to perform in concert. "It's such an immaculately produced record. It's so economical. There's not one part on that record that's superfluous or didn't need to be there. It was really well workshopped before it was recorded, and when it was recorded it got the classic '80s treatment. When you go to learn it again and play it all the way through, it's like an amazing instruction manual to something really perfect. It's easy to do it. It plays itself, really."

But Powles, 59, maintains that while "Starfish" in its entirety is the lure for the Church's current shows, the group is finding that the rest of the night hardly pales in comparison. "It's like when you go to a nice restaurant and have an appetizer; We have a lot of people coming to see 'Starfish' and thin that's the main course, but we start with it so it becomes the appetizer, and by the time we finish the night with a mix of classics and a lot of newer material it's like, 'Oh, we like that even better...' So it's great. We are 40 years old as a band next year and yet we find ourselves at a bit of a peak."

There's some brand new Church material in development, too, as the group eyeballs a follow-up to 2017's "Man Woman Life Death Infinity." "We've been out there naively and stupidly, and often dysfunctionally, making new music all the time," Powles, who maintains a separate career as an artist and producer, says with a laugh. "We've got a couple of things left over from the last session, but we're not in new-new music mode yet. We're still featuring and rotating songs from the 2017 albums. It's been so busy live that we tend to have a bit of space between things. But I have ideas and I know Steve does and when we feel like it's time I know we'll start to work on something new."

This is also a special year with the Church for Powles, who's celebrating his 25th anniversary in the lineup. "There's so much nebulous stuff that goes on with bands, when things start and stop, but it's been a great time. When I joined Peter (Koppes, guitarist) wasn't in the group, so it was an odd situation where I was in and Peer came back in (in 1997). I've had strong relationships with all the other guys, but they haven't always been sort of consistent with each other. Bands are funny things like that."

Powles, in fact, maintains a "silent friendship" with Marty Wilson-Piper, the Church's do-frontman from 1980 until an acrimonious split in 2013. "There's zero communication between Marty and the group. But one of his friends reached out the other day, and I'm going to be in the U.K. on holiday after we do a little run there in June, and I thought, 'Y'know, I should just got to Liverpool and drop in (on Wilson-Piper) and have a chat about football with him, because we've certainly put in a lot of miles together. There's no reason not to be friendly.

The Church performs Thursday, April 11, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors at 7 p.m. $30. 248-544-1991 or themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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