In the lead up to Splendour, we’re examining classic albums from artists on the bill – this week, Dan Condon looks at The Church’s 1982 album, The Blurred Crusade.
The Church have been a remarkably consistent band across their 21 studio albums. They broke through with 1988's Starfish, selling over a million copies worldwide, and first found popularity with 1981’s ‘The Unguarded Moment’. But The Blurred Crusade in 1982 was the first time the band took on a significantly experimental bent. Not only did it set the tone for what was to come, but, it remains one of their finest albums.
The Blurred Crusade begins with 'Almost With You', possibly the best pop song Steve Kilbey has ever written. His voice is perfectly imperfect and his lyrics carry hints of desperation and passion in amongst personal, obscure references. It runs at a good clip, for what initially appears to be a wistful pop song. The song's pace perhaps an indication of the protagonist’s nervous excitement.
'When You Were Mine' comes next, another masterful pop song. It's more aggressive, Peter Koppes' guitar lines are a little more angular and there's a little more vitriol in Kilbey's lyric. It's more post-punk than jangle pop.
While Kilbey wrote most of The Blurred Crusade himself, the rest of the band was more involved in the writing process than on their debut album Of Skins and Heart the year prior.
The jam that closes 'An Interlude' suggests they were gelling together brilliantly. It also features an almighty guitar solo from Koppes that still sounds scintillating today.
The epic 'You Took' is another full-band effort. It opens with surf guitar lead breaks over the rock-solid rhythm section and then falls away as Kilbey starts singing.
The arrangement chops and changes enough that the entire eight minutes is captivating, but it never strays too far from its psych/surf sound to sound overdone.
It beggars belief that The Blurred Crusade didn't earn the band commercial acclaim earlier...
The guitar lines meld powerfully throughout the whole album, but the sound remains crystalline.
At times, Marty Wilson-Piper's jangly 12-string sounds like it’s taken straight from the Roger McGuinn playbook, while at other times Koppes offers searing, jagged post-punk lead breaks. Both guitarists, together, create luscious walls of sound. Their interplay is remarkable.
While the band take things deep with their lengthy, experimental jams, Kilbey's lyrics take a very left-of-centre turn as well.
There's a sense of loss in songs like 'Just For You' and 'When You Were Mine', while the fantastical worlds that 'A Fire Burns' and even the radio-friendly 'Almost With You' inhabit are hard to grasp but wonderful to get lost in.
His melodies are brilliant on just about every song, ensuring the sonic experiments are still steeped in pop.
The Church would find great success later in the '80s, but it beggars belief that The Blurred Crusade didn't earn the band commercial acclaim earlier.
It is not a groundbreaking album, but it is an underrated gem of early-'80s indie rock that still sounds strong today.
The Church return to this classic LP at a series of shows in NSW, VIC, QLD, SA and WA. They’re also playing Splendour In The Grass on Saturday 25 July.
Hear The Blurred Crusade in full on Double J this Sunday 21 June from 9am.