Album Review: Steve Kilbey lets his style wander with brilliant results with ‘The Idyllist’.
Fans of Aussie alternative rock veterans The Church have been a tad on edge lately.
Back in October, frontman Steve Kilbey threatened he’d be quitting the band due to claims his management had been delinquent on paying the band royalties. Things seem to still be at an impasse.
Lucky for us, he’s released a new solo album, which will satiate those in need of a fix for Kilbey’s hypnotic, poetic brand of rock.
‘The Idyllist‘ was born out of sessions for a project entitled Apocrypha. But the recording sessions didn’t adhere to his earlier concept, so he created ‘The Idyllist‘, an album not tied down by thematic lyrics or sound.
This gives it a pleasant, irreverent quality, encapsulating all his various styles. And whereas The Church and other projects can often take time to sink in due to their dense soundscapes, this is more immediately catchy. Equally impressive is the fact that Kilbey is a one-man band, recording each part himself.
Take for instance ‘Zara Thrustra’; it has a T. Rex-style rock riff, all bluesy bended notes and a more gruff vocal delivery then his usual, serene croon. It’s fun to hear him rock out.
The jazzy lounge tune ‘One More Thing Before I Go‘ has Kilbey playing the part of wizened lovelorn troubadour. It’s less than two minutes long, but leaves a lasting impression.
‘Something Out There‘ starts off with plaintive guitar strumming before delving into teardrop psychedelia. Kilbey’s trademark stream of consciousness lyrics take on a humorous tone: “I look like a ponce in my glowing shirt/Sooner of later everybody kills me, this is the story of Steven Kilbey“. It’s punctuated by an ethereal guitar solo not dissimilar from “Providence“, from his 90’s side-project Jack Frost.
“African Jesus“, is a highlight; lovely sun-dappled, jangle-pop. Catchy, pleasant and evoking languid summer days.
“The Truth Is Not Enough” is one of the more dynamically complex tracks. It starts off with thick foreboding mood, ala the Church’s masterpiece “Priest=Aura“, but switches gears to an upbeat folky chorus.
“Can’t Believe You” couples a strident beat to caressing guitars. This push-pull quality is magnetic, adding romantic drama to a stately ballad.
“Oh No Baby” features Kilbey’s unique lyrical technique that espouses melancholia in a narrative framework not unlike a Raymond Chandler detective novel; trying to put together the pieces of where it all went wrong: “it was a Sunday/it was the one day of the year/ it was the only time I took my decorations down.” It’s married to a gorgeous, forlorn melody and is a standout.
The ominous ambient electronics and ethereal guitar on ‘Swift 1‘ provide perfect counterpoint to his fever dream of romantic betrayal; “She shot me once, She speared me twice, She pushed me over a cliff.”
‘Shot Through With Change’ sounds like a plea for redemption or salvation, which both questions and reaffirms faith; “God don’t give me more love than I can manage, God don’t give me more hate that I can’t cope”… “God I feel like such a dope.”
‘Pitstop‘ is playful, packed with huge hooks and a sing-song chorus that feels like something out of a 60’s movie musical. It will get lodged in your brain for days afterwards.
“Alienne” is a sci-fi romance gone awry, “she came to Earth/looking for DNA/so she pulled me apart.” It’s moody electronics bring to mind the Church’s unsung album “Sometime Anywhere.”
“Mist your Opportunity” continues in the ambient electronica vein. The character in the lyrics sounds like a pointed reference to his band management: “Mr Opportunity signing a deal/When he comes to the dotted line/He smiles just like an eel/ Just so you know he’s for real.” Ouch.
The chorus has a wonderful synth-washed atmosphere ala Vangelis’s “Blade Runner” score.
If you’re a fan of The Church and have never explored Kilbey’s solo work, this makes a fine jumping on point to soak in his disparate styles. And for more info on Kilbey’s impressive list of current and past projects, check out his entertaining blog The Time Being.
Steve Kilbey’s ‘The Idyllist‘ is available in a variety of formats. You can order on CD via his website, or via iTunes on the widget below:
And click here to read my review of Kilbey’s latest release “You Are Everything“, his third collaboration with Martin Kennedy.