The Church – Priest = Aura

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

The Church seemed like they could have done anything after the success of Starfish, and what resulted was the disaster of Gold Afternoon Fix. This album is a course correction but by then it was too late, and things soon fell apart for the Church – Richard Ploog had already left, then Peter Koppes said he was out, too, and Steve Kilbey was using heroin at this point. Record label woes and other issues compounded the difficulties. Whatever random good song might have resulted after Priest = Aura, the Church’s early years are their best.

What I Think of This Album

Arguably, the last great Church album. I say this having given up on the Church in the early 2000s – maybe they recaptured the old magic later, but I tend to doubt it. I don’t know if this was the album that should have followed Starfish, but it absolutely was the album that needed to follow Gold Afternoon Fix (though the salvation it offered was fleeting, in the end).

There is a strong sense of retrenchment and insularity on Priest; the album is a miasma of atmospherics and texture, vaguely Eastern in tone (but not sound). The Church display zero interest in writing radio friendly songs. Four of the fourteen tracks are over six minutes long, and even the shorter pieces mostly eschew a pop sound (“Ripple” is the closest thing to a nod to commercialism, with a charming chorus, and maybe “Feel” could’ve gained some traction). Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper dominate, stretching out to explore every whim but without overindulging.

“Chaos,” in particular, is an aptly-titled showcase for the two guitarists, who single-mindedly slice everyone’s Achilles’ tendons over a near-ten minute spree (parts of this song remind me of Crocodiles-era Echo and the Bunnymen). “Aura” kicks things off with a bizarre existential exploration of wartime PTSD.

There are moments of tranquility, like “Paradox,” “Kings”, and “Dome,” but overall the album remains a somewhat unsettling journey into the darkness of someone’s soul. “The Disillusionist” wins for most bewildering, disorienting song of the year. “Mistress” stumbles with the line “And that halo you wear on your head / I haven’t seen one of those in years”; that should only be used once, as the repetition starts to sound like affectation. If getting high and listening to an album is your thing . . . you could do worse than this.

The drums were played by Jay Dee Daugherty (Patti Smith Group, Tom Verlaine). This was recorded and co-produced by Gavin McKillop (Chills, Goo Goo Dolls).

The album title comes from a misreading by Kilbey of a fan’s Spanish:English vocabulary notes, which of course was “Priest = Cura.”

The Best Thing About This Album

The fact that it was a comeback.

Release Date

March, 1992

The Cover Art

This art pretty much perfectly captures the feel of the music. Stark, mysterious, threatening, arid, and timeless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑