Good-bye Richard Ploog, enter J D Dougherty. Let’s face it. Dougherty’s drumming leaves Ploog’s in the dust and although he is credited with co-authorship on many of the songs here, there is an air of him merely being a temporary session musician and this is the first and last album he did with The Church. Still, that’s neither here nor there as this is an excellent album. It combines the shimmer dream pop of Heyday with the glorious gloom of Seance without sounding like a merger of the two.
The production, by Gavin McKillop is a light year ahead of the the fussy and flat work of Gold Afternoon Fix. I’ve often wondered why they’ve never used him again (they even name-checked him in a later song). Song by song, Aura begins the album – a chanting, driving tune. Ripple continues the shimmer along the path to glory but Paradox is a slight let-down and one of the platter’s weak links for no reason I can put a finger on.
Lustre gets back on track nicely. Swan Lake was reviled by a few reviewers of the time of being coy and somewhat silly yet it isn’t that bad a song with some lovely cynical lyrics. Feel is easily the album highlight for no reason I could put forward. It just is. Worth getting this record just for it. Mistress is another album great, and a fine way to end out the first side.
Side two begins in style. Kings is a brilliant cut – very jangling and mysterious and the air is full of secrets waiting to be revealed. Dome is a straightforward track, and lyrically The Church go for science fiction about the fall of a domed city and their civilization. Witch Hunt is a sinister little effort leading up to The Disillusionist.
A chanting chorus tells us The Church a trying to make some point with the Disillusionist. Old Flame carries the cynicism into Psychedelic Furs territory here; a short but not so sweet treatise on lost loves.
Chaos is a monumental song. Song doesn’t describe this track in apt terms I’m afraid. A band going off in the studio using all their musical talent would be more appropriate. Awesome in every way, listen to that middle section! The reality generator has malfunctioned! Astounding, astonishing, this has to be the weirdest thing this group has ever done and it comes off in a big way.
After the rampant dynamism of Chaos, Film counterpoints the energy with reflection. An acceptable instrumental and a damn fine way to finish off a damned fine album.