Something Quite Peculiar. The Church. The Music. The Mayhem. by Steve Kilbey (Hardie Grant)
After nearly 40 years in the music industry, you can excuse Steve Kilbey for forgetting a few things. The lack of detail is the only real quibble with what’s one of the best Oz music reads of the last few years.
I approached this book with mixed feelings. Kilbey has a reputation for being a bit of a narcissist. The Church’s music is hit or miss for me - which is to say I left them alone after their first two albums, dipped back in at “Starfish” and walked away after the stodgy “Gold Afternoon Fix”, with only occasional revisits. So this was a book to be read from a position of not having much skin in the game.
Then I got sucked into the whole melodramatic, up-and-own, self-destructive and ultimately self-redeeming saga, and warmed to Kilbey’s flawed and fallible ways. I consumed “Something Quite Perculiar” in a couple of satisfying gulps.
Like many, I consume music biographies like oxygen but skim the adolescent chapters. In Kilbey’s case, the tale is laced with enough self-effacing humour to make the early parts as essential as what follows. Any autobiographer that uses “malarkey” this often is OK in my book.
Band politics are integral to the Church story and Kilbey tells his side without ducking a share of blame. Meltdowns and episodes of euphoria are laid out. It’s sometimes annoying when times and places are blurred (Wollongong is a bit bigger than “a town south of Sydney”) and more detail would have amplified the story, but omissions are ultimately better than invention.
But this is rock and roll and it’s the dirt that we crave. Kilby doesn’t pull punches in his description of his slide into heroin and decade of subsistence in its grip. To the average fan, Kilbey’s relationship with whatever drugs were going might not have been obvious (calling your solo album “Narcosis” should have been a dead giveway), but even those on the fringes could tell a different story.
Ten years of addiction is compressed into a few pages, but since there’s a lot of nothing meaningful being achieved when someone’s hooked on smack, you can understand it. Kilbey ultimately kicks junk and comes out the other side of course, happy and healthy.
“Something Quite Peculiar” is something quite gripping. It’s well-written and fearless - with its share of, er, unguarded moments. Much to recommend.