Steve Kilbey – Sydney Rococo (Album Review)

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.

Purchase Sydney Rococo:

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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