Saturday, March 21, 2020

"Backwards Compatible"; A Journey Through Heavy Melody With Chris Church

Chris Church is an unabashed fan of all music. I became a fan of Chris Church after seeing him perform a solo acoustic version of the Hall & Oates hit "How Does It Feel To Be Back" which was an unexpected joy and nothing short of sublime. Next stop for me was his 2017 release "Limitations Of Source Tape," an album heavy on hooks and heavy on melody. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Mr. Church had been releasing albums since 1992. I had some homework to do.

In the last year I've learned a bit about his taste in music through his social media posts.  I am happy to report, it is a lot like mine. He is unafraid to proclaim unironic love for everything from hair bands and prog rock to the aforementioned Hall & Oates, and most of all, to Todd Rundgren. He also likes to use the term "heavy melody" to describe music that is not quite heavy metal, but a bit more aggressive than power pop. After a few walks around the block with his new Spyderpop release, "Backwards Compatible," Church will get no argument from me. "Heavy melody" was the inspiration behind this new collection of songs and it is just as he described.

He is unafraid to belt one out, like on "Begin Again," a killer track with Todd Rundgren chord changes, crunchy Raspberries guitars and heavenly background harmonies from Samantha Morgan and Lindsey Murray. It's a formula that gets tweaked from song to song and miraculously works every time.

Church doesn't wear his love for Todd Rundgren on his sleeve, but it's hard to ignore the "wizard's" presence on "Backwards Compatible." Both "Dumb It Up" and "These Daze" sound like great lost Utopia tracks after they shortened the length of their songs from 15 to 4 minutes and their lineup from 8 to 4 members. There are a number of songs on this record that evoke those great guitar and melody heavy tracks from prime-era MTV. The opener "Someday's Coming Fast" brings Sammy Hagar to mind with some fine guitar playing to boot. "You Are The Thunder," to my ears, is Kiss meets Def Leppard. It is loaded with heart and soul, again with some Rundgren-esque harmonies, but light on the synthetics, makeup and hairspray.

Church's songs are big and meaty, and his secret weapon is taking the music you think you don't like--hair bands, glam rock, heavy metal and such---and delivering it organically. He is a fan of this music and that is a plus. He respects the music. There are no cheap shots here. "Backwards Compatible" manages to cover all I love about music without ever sounding like parody. This record is fantastic. It reminds me of all the right parts of the late 70's and early 80's rock radio. You'll need to hear it and once you do, I'll bet you'd agree, Chris Church is the real thing.

Get "Backwards Compatible"at CD Baby and Spyderpop Records


Squints said...

I'm excited to scope this out. Your Michael Monroe rec was spot on and made me happy happy happy.

jef said...

Lots of his stuff (if I'm not mistaken) at Including a crunchy version of Marleen, written by a Mr. Todd Rundgren.

Whattawino said...

Kickin’ my ass! Yay!

heartsofstone said...

Thanks so much - great discovery