It's November 26th 1922, and a team, led by British Egyptologist Howard Carter have been tirelessly excavating the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings for almost a month. They’ve worked around the clock uncovering staircases, treasuries and antechambers, but what would all their work lead to? Would it be the untold riches of an opulent, but long-dead civilization, or would all their endeavours just lead to disappointment and the release of entombed ghosts?
Imagine the joy, the wonder, when on that fateful day they discovered Tutankhamun’s burial chamber laden with priceless artwork, jewellery, and treasures. How could this monument to the craft and skill of humanity remain lost for so many years, undiscovered and unloved? Well, that’s a bit like Chris Church’s back catalogue, freshly reissued by the nice people at Big Stir and Spyderpop.
Where this guy has been hiding, I have no idea, but he seems to have a huge back catalogue of stuff ranging from Hard Rock to Prog Rock to delicious Power Pop already in place. If you’ve got (in this writer’s opinion, the album of the year so far) “Game Dirt”, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about.
But in a feat of post-modern retro-activism, his two previous albums – “Limitations Of Source Tape” and “Backwards Compatible”, have been dusted off and shared with a world who now have an inkling of what he’s all about.
If you’re a regular to IDHAS, you may have read about “Backwards Compatible”, Church’s 2020 release. A delicious tangle of pop smarts and hard rock. The album is loaded with good things, but with an emphasis on loud guitars and the occasional wigged out Eddie Van Halenism.
It starts strongly with “Someday’s Coming Fast”, a brisk pop gem that manages to squeeze in one of those widdly solos popular with pointy geetar wielding metalheads, between hook lines so catchy, they’ll live in your head forever. And that’s not even the best song on the record.
“No Letting Go” may start off like something by Ratt, but it soon settles down into a nice mid-tempo groove. There are no ballads on “Backwards Compatible.” No art-rock experimentation. No daring crossovers. Just 46 minutes of Power Pop with the emphasis on Power.
"Limitations Of Source Tape" is a (slightly) different animal. Church takes his foot off the loud pedal a little and tunes like “Pollyanna’s Going Dark” and “Take a Knee” have a lovely lightness of touch, while “Bell The Cat” harks back to “Lifes Rich Pageant” era REM, which is a very good place to be.
If you want a lazy comparison, Church is channelling the Posies here and their template of noisy guitars and sweet harmonies is used to great effect on this record and on “Backwards Compatible.” The real gem in a box full of jewels here is “Lost” which is giving Jon Auer’s “Songs from the Year of Our Demise” a run for its' money as the album of the millennium, so far. It’s superb. What else can I say?
OK, so the reissue of a couple of great records may not be up there with the discovery of the relics of a civilization that was responsible for giving the world mathematics, medicine, huge breakthroughs in construction and the first peace treaties between nations. But if you’re a pop nerd, it sort of is.
These records and this year’s gem “Game Dirt” are the culmination of a lifetime of a man perfecting his art; polishing it to a high sheen and quietly sharing it with the world. If you haven’t got these albums, buy them. If you’ve already got them, buy them again.