Man Woman Life Death InfinityReviews and Comments
Their 26th record, the Church fully evolved decades ago from a classic new wave band to one of the most steadily satisfying dream pop groups out there, adding plenty of swirling guitars, psychedelic keys and Kilbey's easily recognizable, controlled vocals.
5 Rusties (out of 5)
Their last album, Further Deeper, was a strong record, but Man Woman Life Death Infinity seems to be that next step on a journey that has proven to be quite remarkable, as far as the shelf-life of rock bands go. The creativity is definitely still there, and then some.
Recall that The Church have outlasted a lot of their 80's-era New Wave peers, and blazed their own trail into the musical unknown. And you know, it's exciting to be able to join them on their trek, wherever it take us.
3-1/2 stars (out of 5)
Psychedelic plot continues to swirl for guitar cosmonauts.
There's less to prove and more room to breathe on the second album of the Church's new era: a 10-song doddle after the monolith of 2014's Further/Deeper. But between the shifting keys and ecstatic dream-state chorus of "Another Century" and the filmic apocalypse of "Dark Waltz" is an eminently familiar envelope of sonic architecture. Guitarists Peter Koppes and Ian Haug weave a seamless continuum in the synthy wash of "Submarine", then jangle and chime blissfully nostalgic through "In Your Fog". From ocean to desert, Steve Kilbey's astral visions wax reliably majestic and mercurial. Did you want peyote with that?
[reprinted with permission from the Seance mailing list]
Because I liked F/D [Further/Deeper] so much, and on the strength of Another Century, I had very high hopes for the new record. After a few dozen listens, I really like this one and think it works better as an album than F/D. It's concise and consistent. It features some sonic experimentation within the boundaries of relatively short run times.
Another Century: Everyone here has probably heard this one. I think it's a great song from this new iteration of the band. Has that Church grandeur. Vocals sound great, lyrics are interesting, and the production is dense, but not in a muddy way. At times, I wish the tempo was pushed a little bit, but I find myself thinking that pretty often over the last five albums or so.
Submarine: Has a nice atmospheric, yet propulsive, quality. Interesting sounds. Wouldn't mind hearing an extended version of this one.
For King Knife: Lyrics inspired by imagery from fairy tales. Sounds like it could have been on P=A. The instrumental outro reminds me of Radiance and is my favorite part of the song.
Undersea: You've probably heard this one too. I've overplayed it, so it's hard to hear it anew. I love the opening sitar sounds. The thoughtfulness and care put into the production on this entire album is on display here, especially in the layered vocals.
Before the Deluge: This one could have been on GAF [Gold Afternoon Fix]. I'm not sure why this wasn't the lead single. Another Century is a great song, but has a pretty languid pace. The faster tempo alone makes this song a more immediate listen. It also doesn't hurt that this one sounds like it could have been tucked away on a movie soundtrack in the late 80's; it has a great hooky chorus and new wave keyboard wash. At times, the vocal approach in the verses reminds me of what Wire is doing these days. As much as I love this song, I would love to hear another version with an acoustic 12-string strumming away madly in the background. Still, it's great as it is and kicks off a really strong run of tunes.
I Don't Know How I Don't Know Why: Another stunner. Aside from the vocal approach, this one could have been on Starfish; the guitar tones bear a stronger resemblance to UTMW than I realized at first, but it's not at all derivative of that song. Sounds more Churchy than the Church has sounded in a long time, if that makes sense. Sometimes the obvious choices pay off.
A Face in a Film: Sounds like a strong song off any of the last few albums, but I think it works really well in the context of the tracks that surround it on this record. I love the chorus on this one, and it might show the influence of recent tours with the Furs. The "to whom you bore a strange similarity" melody reminds me of Richard Butler (the Ghost in You, maybe?).
In Your Fog: Cool insistent chord progression. The vocals and instrumentation are great and in line with the previous few tracks. Contains the one lyrical clunker on the album for me: "I'm confused enough, like an eel." Are eels confused? Being a crazy person, I googled it and found no evidence that they are. I still like it though.
Something Out There Is Wrong: Incredible. Just as Pride Before a Fall featured a pure shoegaze sound they had resisted, this one is perfect gothic pop. It has an eerie insistent quality that reminds me of Gary Numan's Down in the Park. It also features some of the sweetest jangle tones we've heard in a while. A classic.
Dark Waltz: The verses are pretty straight up blues rock, but have a nice rainy heaviness. The chorus is pure Church though. A nice closer.
These guys have been making music for a long time — this is album, what, 25 or something? You'd think they'd have lost it long ago. Lost the drive, the inspiration, the spark. But what do we have? Man Woman Life Death Infinity: to my ears, one of the freshest collections of songs released by anybody this year and a stellar addition to the band's catalog.
9 stars (out of 10)
It's not easy proclaiming the latest release by a veteran band to be one of their best, especially when their long career is already speckled with many peaks. But damn it, I'm staking my claim here and saying that Man Woman Life Death Infinity deserves to go down as a 21st-century masterpiece, a bright beam of light amid a generic musical landscape, and truly one of the Church's greatest releases.
2017 gives us Man Woman Life Death Infinity, a gorgeous album that liberally references the band's past phases, be it the atmospheric, outer-space whisper of the lead single "Another Century"; the fractured soundscape of "Submarine"; the cosmic fairytale narrative of "For King Knife"; the phased-out and hypnotic drift of "Undersea"; the simplicity of "Before the Deluge" (the one track where Wilson-Piper's flourish is most missed); the soaring lead guitar of "I Don't Know How I Don't Know"; the esoteric poetry of "A Face In a Film"; the raw and dreamless pre-Starfish sound of "In Your Fog"; the cascading guitars of the spaced-out "Something Out There Is Wrong"; or the whimsical, detached spoken-word of the album closer, "Dark Waltz." It's quintessential and drifting just out of reach.
[reprinted with permission from The Church (Music Band) Facebook Group]
Having listened through MWLDI twice today, I had to pause for a good moment, trying to remember the last time I had the elated feeling I had experienced now when listening to another Church album. It hit me, The Blurred Crusade, back in 1982. It was the feeling of a younger man hearing the music, the band that he'd bind himself to for the duration (not up yet!) of his adult life. Of Skins and Heart laid the foundation, Blurred Crusade cast it in cement for me. In terms of 'feel', this album has similarities to 'Crusade', It is for me the most cohesive, complete sounding album since then. Crystal clear sound, like 'Starfish' and 'Crusade', and production quality that Bob Clearmountain would be proud of. Steve's vocals are high in the mix, enabling you to hear every word, and these are some of his best lyrics to date, conjuring unsettling portents (very of our times), beneath the often gobsmackingly wonderful guitar work. Disturbing images of 'drones' that see what we can't, re contextualised sex, suggestions of detachments. This is also possibly the bands most overtly psychedelic record, music and lyrics really are as one, as the whole album plays like a continuation of a thought, a concept. True psychedelia is more than just bunging a few effects in here and there, although there are effects, they never appear gratuitous. 'Submarine' and 'Before the deluge', probably tie for favourites here, the former had me recalling Roger McGuinn's Moog tracks from the late 60's in respect of some of the electronic parts weaving in and out of it. 'For King Knife', just love the word play! And a terrific, staring back down that rabbit hole feel! Basically every track is top quality stand out stuff, they all work together beautifully. MWLDI is among the best the Church have produced, on a par with 'Priest', 'Crusade', 'Starfish' and easily in my top 5. After 37 years, still original, evolving, what other band of that duration can that be said of? And here's the amazing thing, it maybe the best is yet to come! Good luck topping this beauty, guys.
5 stars (out of 5)
Man Woman Life Death Infinity holds a mood both melancholic and mysterious. There is a subtle angst in the world-weary jangle of I Don't Know How I Don't Know Why and the overcast and haunting Something Out There is Wrong. The latter track in particular has the inky noir aspects of [the] band's dark masterpiece Priest=Aura. In this way, the new album feels perfectly suited for our uneasy and disorienting present, where we constantly struggle to keep our equilibrium. Luckily for us, there's solace to be had throughout this stirring 10 song meditation.
7 stars (out of 10)
The cohesion of the current lineup is as firm as the sound is deep, right from the spacey intro of "Another Century" into the swirl of voices layered in between acoustic and electric guitars. The beauty of the multiple textures lies in how they can so amply fill a room or headphones with equal depth.
4 stars (out of 5)
The Church has done it again. Another collage of aural masterpiece. Both old and younger fans of the band, unite and swim happily in this new offering.
4 stars (out of 5)
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.