The Church PhotoFORMED: 1980, Sydney, Australia

Best known for the shimmering "Under the Milky Way," their lone Top 40 hit, the Australian band the Church combined the jangling guitar-pop of '60s icons like the Byrds with the opaque wordplay of frontman Steve Kilbey to create a lush, melancholy brand of neo-psychedelia rich in texture and melody. Formed in Sydney in 1980 by vocalist/bassist Kilbey with guitarist Peter Koppes and drummer Nick Ward, the Church recruited second guitarist Marty Willson-Piper before debuting the following year with Of Skin and Heart, an evocative collection highlighted by the ringing "The Unguarded Moment," a major success down under.

After replacing Ward with drummer Richard Ploog, the group resurfaced in 1982 with The Blurred Crusade, a stunning effort featuring mature standouts like "Almost With You" and "When You Were Mine." 1983's Seance continued to refine the Church's atmospheric sound, and the subsequent success of the EPs Persia and Remote Luxury helped earn the band an American deal with Warner Bros., which issued the excellent Heyday in 1986. After moving to Arista, the Church teamed with famed session guitarists Danny Kortchmar and Waddy Wachtel to record 1988's Starfish, their most artistically and commercially successful effort to date. Highlighted by "Under the Milky Way," the album also featured the minor hits "Reptile" and "Spark," a marvelous pop blast penned by Willson-Piper.

The follow-up, 1988's Gold Afternoon Fix, failed to repeat the success of its predecessor as the single "Metropolis" garnered only minor airplay. Ploog left the Church prior to the release of 1992's Priest : Aura, which featured former Patti Smith Group drummer Jay Dee Daugherty; by 1994's Sometime Anywhere, only Kilbey and Willson-Piper remained, recording with the aid of a drum machine. When the album failed to crack the charts, Arista dropped the group from their contract, and with new drummer Tim Powles, the Church issued 1996's Magician Among the Spirits on the tiny White label; a subsequent tour marked Koppes' return to the fold. Hologram of Baal followed in 1998, and a year later the Church released the covers collection Box of Birds. After Everything Now This and the double-album Parallel Universe both appeared in 2002. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide