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|Studio album by The Church|
|Released||10 March 1992|
|Recorded||1991, EMI 301 Studios, Sydney|
|Genre||Alternative rock, dream pop|
|Producer||The Church and Gavin MacKillop|
|The Church chronology|
After the release of their previous album, Gold Afternoon Fix (1990), and subsequent tour, The Church returned to Sydney's EMI Studio 301 to commence work on their next album. With lowered commercial expectations from their label, Arista, the atmosphere was more relaxed. Bringing in Scottish producer Gavin MacKillop (Barenaked Ladies, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Straitjacket Fits) to supervise the sessions, the band began to improvise the framework for the next set of songs. Whereas previous albums had been credited to, for example, "Produced by Bob Clearmountain and the Church", or " Produced by Waddy Wachtel and the Church", the credit for this album reads "Produced by The Church and Gavin McKillop," reflecting the band's increasing role in their own production. From fragments and chord changes, songs crystallised and were elaborated upon.
The relatively stress-free environment and free flow of ideas (as well as drugs; Steve Kilbey had been using heroin since late 1990, and opium was a favourite mind-enhancer for the other members during the recordings) saw the material take on a far more expansive and surreal quality. New influences took effect: Daugherty's jazz-like approach on drums brought a fresh change, with his contributions extending to keyboards and other instruments. Willson-Piper, having recently worked with All About Eve, had expanded his own sound with his guitars now soaring in crescendos from his new volume pedal.
Priest=Aura, is titled from Kilbey's misreading of a Spanish fan's English vocabulary notes ('priest' = 'cura'). It contains fourteen tracks, many over six minutes long, its length surpassing all previous studio albums. With song concepts derived from cryptic, one-word working titles (an idea originally proposed by Willson-Piper), the lyrics leaned towards the abstract and esoteric. Emphasising free association and undirected coincidence between music and motif, Kilbey declined to define their meanings. Sonically, the music had numerous layers, courtesy of guitar overdubs and MacKillop's rich production. The interplay between Koppes and Willson-Piper dominated throughout, especially on tracks such as "Ripple," "Kings," and the epic, aptly titled "Chaos". "Chaos"' lyrics were a reflection of Kilbey's unsettled lifestyle at the time.
Upon its release on 10 March 1992 (it was issued in the United States slightly before Australia), however, Priest=Aura had less chart success than all their previous seven studio albums – although it peaked in the ARIA Albums Chart Top 30. It was given a mixed reception, some critical, and many uncertain how to react. Rolling Stone 's Ira Robbins called the album "rich in texture" but with an "arid atmosphere". The band went on only a limited tour, confined to Australia (the "Jokes-Magic-Souvenirs" tour), as Kilbey prepared for the birth of his twin daughters. Adding to the decline in The Church's outlook was the announcement by Koppes of his departure. Despite a completely sold-out tour, increasing personality conflicts within the band especially with Willson-Piper and frustration over the band's drop in chart success since Starfish and Gold Afternoon Fix made the situation intolerable. Left largely without any promotion by Arista, the album's success was limited mostly to modern rock charts.
Despite its muted reception at the time of release, Priest=Aura is considered by both the band and fan base to be an artistic high-water mark in The Church's career. – one of the main reasons why in 2011 the album, along with Untitled #23 and Starfish, was played in its entirety on the band's 30th Anniversary, "Future, Past, Perfect Tour." Originally released as a single album, a 2× CD version with the bonus disc, A Quick Smoke at Spot's: Archives 1986-1990, was released later.
In 2010, Second Motion records released a digital only 30th Anniversary remaster edition with lyrics. (The title is a complete misnomer since only 18 years passed between the original release in 1992 and the 2010 re-release; however the title probably derives from the fact that the band itself celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2010).
All songs (Daugherty/Kilbey/Koppes/Willson-Piper), except “Mistress” (Kilbey/Koppes/Willson-Piper)
- "Aura" (6:59)
- "Ripple" (6:03)
- "Paradox" (3:59)
- "Lustre" (5:45)
- "Swan Lake" (2:26)
- "Feel" (3:55)
- "Mistress" (4:12)
- "Kings" (4:35)
- "Dome" (4:00)
- "Witch Hunt" (1:27)
- "The Disillusionist" (6:24)
- "Old Flame" (1:37)
- "Chaos" (9:34)
- "Film" (3:56)
The two-CD release of Priest=Aura included a rarities disc titled A Quick Smoke at Spot's: Archives 1986-1990
- "Texas Moon"
- "Perfect Child"
- "Much Too Much"
- "Take It Back"
- "We Both Know Why We're Here"
- "Frozen and Distant"
- "Forgotten Reign"
- "Anna Miranda"
- "Ride Into the Sunset"
- "You Got Off Light"
- "Nose Dive"
- "The Feast"
- Steve Kilbey: Lead Vocals, Bass, Guitars
- Marty Willson-Piper: Guitars
- Peter Koppes: Guitars, Keyboards
- Jay Dee Daugherty: Drums, Percussion
- Holmgren, Magnus. "The Church". passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p. 211-12
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. Note: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
- Hung, Steffen. "Discography The Church". Australian Charts Portal (Hung Medien). Retrieved 14 July 2014.
- Robbins, Ira (16 April 1992). "The Church: Priest = Aura". Rolling Stone (628). Retrieved 14 July 2014.