We at Big Stir Records are delighted to announce the March 24 release of RADIO TRANSIENT, an all-new and breathtakingly original album from celebrated Lenoir, North Carolina singer-songwriter CHRIS CHURCH. Preceded by the lead single “Going 'Til We Go”, the album will be out on CD in record stores worldwide and streaming everywhere on the street date, and is up for pre-order at www.bigstirrecords.com
, the BSR Bandcamp page, and online retailers now. RADIO TRANSIENT features ten songs in a fresh, sparkling, and propulsive new style for Chris, each framing his renowned melodic instincts, lyrical wit and unmistakable vocal firepower in a giddy new – and irresistible – context.
CHRIS CHURCH has never made the same album twice, and the surprises born of that adventurous spirit are what fans and critics alike have come to love about his work. In many ways, the clean guitars, dramatic synths, franticly kinetic drums (courtesy of NICK BERTLING) and urgent backing vocals from LINDSAY MURRAY (of Gretchen's Wheel) make RADIO TRANSIENT Chris's most “pop” album yet. But it's “pop” beamed in from a sort of alternate '80s radio world envisioned by Church, who frequently cites influences like Lindsey Buckingham, The Fixx, and Hall & Oates when discussing the touchstones of the record. We at Big Stir hear also a fair dollop of the pop-leaning tendencies of The English Beat in the manic rhythms of both the drums and Chris's machine-gun vocal delivery, and the skittering lead runs on the Danelectro 12-string that's practically the only guitar employed during the sessions. The overall effect is, in a word, intoxicating.
The sweetly glistening single “Going 'Til We Go,” an affectionate ode to meandering conversations between Chris and his wife (and co-producer) LORI FRANKLIN, provides a taste of the unique sound of RADIO TRANSIENT. But the record is best first experienced as a whole, starting with the driving beats and rapid-fire hooks of the opening manifesto “GCRT” -- wherein Church imagines himself as an interstellar warrior combatting the avatars of abysmal music imbedded in emanations from the Galactic Center Radio Transient from which the album and song take their titles. From there it's a frenetic, engrossing headlong rush through a series of breakneck-paced pop jewels to the closing track, on which Chris invites the listener to catch him on the “Flip”... a cue to start the record again from the top and begin diving into the fascinating nuances of the lyrics. The pace rarely slows down, but when it does, the rewards are rich: the jaw-droppingly gorgeous ballad “One More Chance To Get Over You” (featuring a ringing guitar solo from the legendary BILL LLOYD), the groove of “Already In It” with its flourishes of Duran Duran/ABC-inspired New Romanticism, and the spooky but utterly danceable “Far Too Late”.
Overall, though, RADIO TRANSIENT is sleek, and it's fast: gloriously, bracingly fast. “It sounds like it's about to fall off a cliff the whole time,” says Chris, and that driving tempo is a big part of the record's compelling allure. The pure '80s-radio textures – Chris has even codified the sonic vibe into the phrase “Buckingham/Fixx” -- may surprise fans who've followed Church's recent run of acclaimed outings. Those have run the gamut from the classicist power pop of 2017's Limitations Of Source Tape to the hard rock “Heavy Melody” of Backwards Compatible (2020), and from the GBV-inflected lo-fi of the pandemic-era Game Dirt (2021) to the Crazy Horse sludge-pop of the deeply emotional Darling Please, released last year after a decade in the vaults. But the new sound fits Chris's melodic sensibilities like a glove and is instantly striking, a natural progression of his artistic restlessness and a perfect setting for his nuanced songcraft and impassioned singing (and the harmonies cooked up along with Murray).
Once you've caught your breath and settled down for a closer listen, you'll fall under the spell of the songs themselves. Not enough is said about Church's lyrical prowess, and it's never been more clearly displayed than it is on RADIO TRANSIENT. Although unified by the album's rhythmic and aural signatures, each tune on the album is distinct, and much of that's a credit to the wordplay. Chris toggles from the playfully ludicrous fantasy of “GCRT” (full of absurdist couplets like “Collect your fossil fuels and move it along/Intramolecular aggression is wrong”) to the giddy dance floor come-on of “I Don't Wanna Dance With Me” which sees him feeling free enough to deploy the aside “Hot stuff/What's up?” It might take the listener a few spins to tease out the artist-to-artist love-hate encounter underpinning “I Think I Think I Like You” or how the line "It's purely protozoan, getting getting done" fits into “Flip” and its themes of accepting fate, but it's time well spent, and the melodies speak for themselves.
Church's joy in deploying those kinds of lines is palpable and infectious, and they make it all the more rewarding when he zeroes in on sharp character sketches or deeper emotional truths. RADIO TRANSIENT is anchored by movingly real renderings of romance from the first spark (“Already In It”) to the heartbreak of its conclusion (“Gotta Go Gotta Ramble”) to the soul-deepness of a forever-connection captured in small, lovely moments as on “Going 'Til We Go”. And alongside all of the quirky, often disarmingly profound turns of phrase, you'll find brilliantly crafted lines for the ages, like “Now when I see you on the boulevard, I'm the king of hearts wearing joker's shoes" from the majestic “One More Chance”.
That's what's remarkable about Chris's songs, and RADIO TRANSIENT in particular: fully-formed, emotionally complex universes living beneath the inviting glossy surface. This may well be the greatest album that should have come out in 1987, but like everything CHRIS CHURCH puts forth, it's timeless at its core. And like all great pop music of any stripe, it's damned near addictive. We don't think it's too early to declare this one of the very best records of 2023, because we're certain we'll still be reveling in it by the year's end and for years to come. We're betting you will, too.