Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

3WA 2018 #9: The Church – Gold Afternoon Fix

Late February, 1990. An Australian band which had burst into the public consciousness of a U.S. audience with their previous record releases a follow-up, hopeful to continue and expand that level of success.

Yes, another one.

What is it?

Gold Afternoon Fix is The Church’s follow-up to the popular and highly-regarded Starfish album. Thirteen songs and nearly an hour long, it’s a real swing-for-the-fences effort.

How does it sound?

Back in the sampler mix, circuses and elephants:

Why this pick?

This is an easy one: It’s the only album from this band that I really like. It came out at about the same time as the Oils’ Blue Sky Mining, I knew The Church from the singles off their last record and I liked the lead-off single from this one, so I bought it. Note that going into the 1990s I worked a burger-flipping job and my only real expenses were my share of rent on a tiny apartment and keeping food in my belly, so most of my income was disposable. I was willing to buy pretty much anything that caught my eye. Or ear, as it were.

Weird thing is, The Church isn’t really my kind of band normally. Listening to other songs of theirs I’ve heard paints the picture of a band operating in a drug-addled haze most of the time. You get some of the same feel from Gold Afternoon Fix but it works better here, somehow.

Basically, through no intention or fault of the band’s own, they ended up making a record that veers into my preferred territory.

Which songs are the highlights?

“Pharaoh” and “Metropolis” start things off normally enough, then “Terra Nova Cain” brings in a new level of trippy sci-fi weirdness.

My standout favorites are the snarky little “You’re Still Beautiful” later in the record and the album’s six-minutes-long closing piece, “Grind.”

Which songs don’t work so well?

There’s a middle stretch to the album, from “City” to “Essence,” where the songs aren’t very engaging. “Monday Morning” has the benefit of being the shortest track on the album, at least.

Later there’s the somewhat-aptly-named “Disappointment.”

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

Had I not picked Gold Afternoon Fix I’d have not picked a Church record at all. Other than the two singles, most of Starfish doesn’t gel for me.

From numeric necessity, of course, I ended up passing over a bunch of artists entirely when selecting this year’s roster. Maybe I’d have gone with Disturbed’s Ten Thousand Fists or something. Who knows?

Any final thoughts?

While the band didn’t get what they wanted out of this album or the process of its creation, the results are better than folks generally give it credit for. The studio wanted another album loaded with hits like “Under The Milky Way” and instead we got… all of this. It’s a helluva thing and I genuinely adore this hot mess of a record. Every song here ranges from decent to great, and I don’t hate any of them. It’s hard to find an entire album of ten or more songs without a 2-star or lower blip in the lineup but here we are.

And that’s why Gold Afternoon Fix earned its place in this year’s run.

Comparing the two Australian bands’ albums which came out within days of one another was an amusing exercise. Pointless, maybe, but irresistible. My conclusion? While Midnight Oil made a very good record, I think The Church made a more interesting one.


  1. For me, The Church fell into a small corner of the music world that only contained them, The Cult, and Echo and the Bunnymen. That the three bands sounded nothing alike didn’t matter, I always grouped them together.

    This is not a bad thing.

    These three are bands that hit me just right for a couple of tracks, and then were… just sorta there.

    Don’t get me wrong… I think Under The Milky Way is one of the best late ’80s/early ’90s no-longer-new-wave-but-not-yet-grunge songs ever. That it was one of the few songs that fell perfectly in my vocal register at the time may have had something to do with it.

    But as I’ve mentioned before, that period of time was a little confused for me musically. Also financially: I was just out of college, and just into grad school when these groups all made their splashes. Particularly when I was living well below the poverty line in grad school, music was not a thing I spent money on in any serious amount.

    So some bands appeared, had a career, and disappeared, and I literally never knew about them. While The Church didn’t fly that far under the radar for me, that they had a second album was not something I knew until… well… now. Or that they were Australian.

    I like Under The Milky Way though.

    • “Under The Milky Way” is a pretty damned good song, it’s true. As is “Reptile.”

      The Church and Midnight Oil both had several albums under their belt, almost exclusively in Australia, before hitting it big here in the US. The kind of “overnight success” that comes from a decade of hard touring and recording, I suppose.

      I dunno, I just love that these two albums arranged themselves so neatly for this project. I’m sure that was their plan all along…

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