After the release of 2014's Further/Deeper, Australia's the Church spent much of the next three years touring, splitting their live set between new songs and revisiting tracks off their 1982 sophomore effort The Blurred Crusade. It was also a period that introduced fans to new member, former Powderfinger guitarist Ian Haug, who stepped in after the departure of Marty Wilson-Piper in 2013. It was in this spirit of balancing the old and the new, the past and the future, that they recorded their expansive 25th studio date, 2017's astral-tinged Man Woman Life Death Infinity. Produced by Ted Howard, who has worked with the band throughout much of the 2000s, the album finds lead singer/songwriter Steve Kilbey, co-founding-guitarist Peter Koppes, Haug, and longtime-drummer Tim Powles continuing to match their love of arid, atmospheric space rock with a hooky pop sensibility. As with past efforts, much of this sensibility rests on the shoulders of Kilbey, who remains a quietly prolific entity. Notably, this album comes on the heels of his equally interstellar 2017 collaboration with All India Radio's Martin Kennedy Glow and Fade. Like that album, Man Woman Life Death Infinity starts cinematically with an icy, shimmering synth off-set by a coiled, echoey twang, like a guitar floating at the edge of the solar system. From there, "Another Century" kicks into a steady pulse as Kilbey intones in his best deadpan David Bowie croon, "I gotta light a candle for you/So you can see yourself/In the dark." Having emerged from his own dark period of addiction in the early 2000s, Kilbey remains a master of shadowy, hallucinogenic tropes and evocative lyricism. It's a sound that informs other tracks here like the towering majesty of "For King Knife," with its ringing, Phil Spector-ish Wall of Sound, and the moody Byrdsian "I Don't Know How I Don't Know Why," with its dueling arpeggiated and heavily effected guitar leads. Elsewhere, they dive into the Eastern-tinged, Pink Floyd-esque "Undersea," draw upon their early-'80s new wave roots on "A Face in Film," and embrace psych rock on the menacing anthem "In Your Fog." The amazing thing about Man Woman Life Death Infinity, as with much of the Church's post-2000s work, is that it sounds utterly fresh, even as it's in keeping with their early albums. Rather than backing away from the gothy, new wave psychedelia of their youth, just as they revisited The Blurred Crusade, here they've embraced that aesthetic and imbued it with the emotional maturity and poetic gravitas that comes with their decades-long space rock journey.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar