November 23, 2018 Steve Kilbey – Sydney Rococo (Album Review)
To casual music listeners, his name will certainly sound obscure; however, for fans of New Wave and, definitely, in the Australian Alternative Rock scene, Steve Kilbey is an institution.
Born on September 13, 1954, in Hertfordshire, England, and then raised in Canberra, Australia, Kilbey has become known as the singer-songwriter and bass player of the Australian-hailing band The Church, which to date has released 25 studio albums, from 1981’s Of Skins and Heart to 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity. Aside from engaging in various collaborative works that included the two-off project Jack Frost with Grant McLennan of The Go-Betweens, Kilbey also continues to enjoy a very prolific solo career. He released more than a dozen albums under his own name, starting with 1986’s Unearthed and unleashing the latest, Sydney Rococo, Friday, November 23, 2018 through Golden Robot Records
Kilbey’s first solo album of new material in some time, consisting of eleven songs in total, it opens grandly with the Baroque Pop–tinged, upbeat title track, whose styling harks back to the early works of The Church. The mood then slows down with the loungy and rustic drag of the piano-heavy “Distant Voices.” And then there is the catchy and bright Jangle Pop of “When I Love Her She Sings,” which will certainly delight fans of the New Wave phase of The Church’s music. This is then followed by “Nineveh”—a fuzzy, saccharine mix of Psychedelic, Shoegaze, and Dreampop.
Kilbey turns sentimental with the slightly orchestrated, wistful piano ballad “The Wrong One,” which may remind the initiated of The Church’s “Don’t Open the Door to Strangers.” The mood then becomes ominous and hypnotic as “Achilles Heals” plays next.
“A Night Is Coming” is yet another change of style and pace—raw, stripped down, and nearly acoustic; Rock-n-Roll to a certain degree. The ensuing instrumental “Sydney Morocco” is a standout for its Hindustani-flavored Psychedelic Folk predisposition, recalling similar excursions by the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen (Reverberation) and Cornershop (When I Was Born for the 7th Time). With “The Lonely City,” Kilbey then returns the listener to the overall jangly, Indie Pop sound of the album; Kilbey is in his comfort sound—cool, breezy, and poppy.
The penultimate track, “Lagoon” is another album highlight—soulful, graceful, and engaging; rich with beautiful instrumental ornamentation. Finally, Kilbey wraps up Sydney Rococo with the inspired and impassioned piano-oriented song—the heartrending and lyrically poetic “Traitor Signals.”
He may not be as popular as Johnny Marr nor as Peter Hook, but Kilbey has surpassed so many of his peers in terms of the volume of released works. Sydney Rococo is another addition onto his unending list of musical accomplishments. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this new album 4 out of 5 stars.