The Church and The Twin Cities


Now, I have to admit--I am sad that I will not be seeing the Church play live on Monday night. They are scheduled to play in downtown Washington D. C. and, quite fucking frankly, there's no way in or out of Washington D. C. in a reasonable way anymore. They are playing the 9:30 Club and I'm not doing it. Love the band, know it would be wonderful, but I'm not going to end up trapped between here and there in a car on a road full of stopped vehicles.

Nostalgia does rear up, and I know exactly of which Steve Kilbey speaks.  When I lived in Minneapolis in the late 1980s, for what seemed like five fucking minutes, it was like living in the best of all possible worlds. I never had money, didn't know what it was about, and I was lost and alone. But the music was what opened my eyes to what you could find out there. At the center of all of that were The Church. You could go into any record store and all of their albums were available on Arista--you could get the cassettes or the CDs at that point. When the Rykodisc versions of the solo albums for each of the composers in the Church appeared, I took every penny I had and scooped them up. I still have them--all of them, and I will never part with them.

The Church were the coolest band of the 1980s. They were prolific and without peer. They were better than The Smiths and they were better than anyone else you want to throw out there. People hated them precisely because they were so good. No one who understands why they like the Church will ever turn on that equation and ask themselves who might have been better--the answer is no one. They tore themselves apart and fell apart and split apart but they have always been a band with the weight of an immense and deep catalog of songs they'll never play that are standalone classics. The entire Seance album surpasses the output of all of the songs ever recorded by every band ever just by virtue of having been released to commercial indifference. In Minneapolis, you fucking owned Seance and you knew it was as good as five other Church albums, easily.

And, of course, the Church never play anything from Seance. And they never will. They are that good of a band. They can ignore one of the best albums ever made entirely because they have nine or ten other albums they can ignore that are just as good. This is why they are hated. They have credibility as artists and a catalog the music business cannot comprehend.

I acquired their catalog slowly, even buying the cassette version of the compilation album Hindsight. That reminds me of what happened the day I bought it. I was in a Minneapolis record store called Garage D'or, and I was incredibly pleased to have found it. It was a double cassette--the only one I have ever owned--and it was like a precious relic. The clerk was sly, and he had slipped it under the bag, not in the bag, and when I turned to leave, there it was. Paid for, but on the counter. Ah, I remember saying, that was a close one. He gave a look and turned away. That's how precious it was--he was willing to try anything to get it for himself. Now, it sits in a special container, preserved all this time, and mine forever. I take it out once in a great while, and I handle it and turn it over in my hands. It will never be played again and I don't care to tell you how I know this, but that thing is weighted down with more universal truth and magic and power than anything sitting in an actual church somewhere in Europe. It is my relic, and unlike their junk, this relic could explode into arcs of fire and lightning and cause mountains to fall and prairies to burst with flowers. Nice try, clerk boy. Wonder if you ever found anything a tenth as wondrous as Hindsight. I will pass it to the kids one day, and they won't know what it is until it levitates and shimmers and burns bright through the darkness and saves mankind from some thundering beast from another world.

The Church were loved and appreciated in Minneapolis. They could move there, buy reasonable houses in the Western suburbs, maybe something south of St. Paul. even rent an apartment in Lakeville, and they could play weekend shows all over the Twin Towns. They would be feted and admired and given free stuff forever if they did that.

I don't miss Minneapolis at all, by the way. I could never live there, and I could never live there again. It introduced me to music and to shitty people, and that's it. The way you deal with those things, and triumph over all, is to dig the Church and never let any of that go.