By MIKE CHAIKEN
Before grunge flaunted its guitar muscle and after technopop’s robotic rhythms were losing steam, the music yet to be dubbed alternative found inspiration in a dreamy, languid sound that could be dubbed psychedelic—yet hardly too modern for long-term residence in the land of retro.
Within that musical atmosphere, The Church arrived from Australia on the shores of America and broke out big with its fifth album “Starfish” and their ubiquitous radio hit “Under the Milky Way.”
The jangly, swirling acoustic guitars at the opening of “Under the Milky Way”— and the subsequent bagpipe break— became a trademark track of late 1980s radio cool.
Released in 1988, the album is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The Church plays the Wolf Den at the Mohegan Sun on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m.
With the anniversary of “Starfish,” The Church’s chief songwriter and bassist Steve Kilbey said that for this tour, “We play the album from start to finish faithfully— but with more oomph.”
Some of the tracks have been part of The Church’s set list for years. But others haven’t been played since the album came out.
“I’m enjoying some of the ones we don’t do that often anymore,” said Kilbey in his email interview from the road. “It’s refreshing to play them.”
To prepare for the tour, Kilbey—who is joined in the band by Peter Koppes, Tim Powles, and Ian Haug— said it wasn’t necessary to go back and listen to “Starfish” with new ears. “I just turn up and go with the flow. The songs are all semi-embedded in my head.”
As noted, the songs from “Starfish” in this tour will be approached a little differently. “It’ll be harder hitting, I hope, without losing subtlety.”
Asked what he thought of the younger Steve Kilbey when he did go back to The Church’s older tracks in a fit of reflection, Kilbey said, “Oh boy, he was quite a character. He was a good songwriter but quite a hedonistic fool. He had to learn the hard way.”
Since “Starfish,” Kilbey said his songwriting approach has evolved more than changed. “I’ve just refined my style but I’m always hammering at the same thing.”
Listening to the older albums like “Starfish” also has little effect on new songwriting, he said. “I like to forget all I’ve done and pull out something fresh.”
“Starfish” has a languid, dreamy feel to it, much like earlier Pink Floyd’s “Saucerful of Secrets” and “Piper at the Gates of Dawn.”
“I listen to all the old stuff still,” said Kilbey of the observation. “I guess that’s what you can hear.”
The group’s latest album is 2017’s”Man Woman Life Death Infinity.”
As for a new album any time soon, Kilbey said, “There is nothing on the boil.”
The Church performs at The Wolf Den at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. The show is free but the venue fills quickly so arrive early.