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Review of Starfish from Juke 1988 Print E-mail
Friday, 01 January 1988
A good review of Starfish from Juke magazine.

Juke 1988

More unearthly delights...THE CHURCH

Starfish

(Mushroom/Festival)

Two years after its release, l still go back to Heyday. That in itself is surprising, because so few records are made today that are consciously meant to stand the test of time. What is more surprising, though, is that I still find new things to savour, I am still moved by the music after repeated listenings.

As a "product", though, as “a unit in the demographical survey" of corporatism, Heyday's failure to break through into the big league merely emphasised that vulnerability was not the saving grace of '80s pop.

Starfish could have been a lot of things. As you know, on the Heyday world tour, The Church came close to collapsing as various members quit and then rejoined in frustration and hostility. Starfish could have been an anxious jumbled mess, or it could have been a clean sweep sell-out.

Thankfully it is neither. The band teamed up with LA producers Greg Ladanyi and Waddy Watchel and have come up with an album that has taken a leap from Heyday, zeroing in on that album's strengths, pulling together a consistency never that apparent on any of their past works. They’ve come closer than ever to their own sound, edging towards a wonderfully stormy atmospheric picture pop.

"Destination", the opener, sets the scene: more slices of Kilbey lyrical melancholia, pretty melody and a beautiful production which taps their soul rather than manifest a product, it bears a concise evocative approach, building a symphonic sound embellished with spectacular instrumentation.

I'm not sure if it`s the continuing growth of The Church as a band or if it`s the influence of the two US producers, but Star fish takes large strides in their coming to grips with themselves. The spiritual gurus would say: fee/ your soul. The Church have, in the last two years, gained a greater understanding of what they`re about and not afraid to confront that reality. Starfish exposes more elements than even their staunchest fans thought possible.

The feminine and masculine sides of the music are acknowledged more than ever. “Under The Milky Way" and “Antenna" have a real fragility and prettiness about them. In the same way they`ve never been scared of exposing their vulnerability they`ve put themselves on the line as a real travelling band too. Through “North South East West", “Spark" and “Hotel Womb", pulsating bass runs bounce off chiming guitars and crisp drumwork.

The two guitarists Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes have been encouraged to step out as players, and experiment with sounds to make riffs more durable. Both weigh-in with a solo composition, each, which they sing: this adds to the tex ture without jarring or detracting. There’s also “Lost” which, alas, brings out the fey pretentious element inherent in the music . . . it’s an aspect that I actively dislike but then again a lot of Church fans clutching on to their valium bottles tend to identify closest with it.

Starfish bounds around and opens so many doors that it`s going to take a few listenings, through various moods, time spans and chemical stimulation to take everything in. A cursory listen so far has told me a lot about The Church: without pandering to our requirements, they`ve pulled us in with a sneaky undertow, revealing something that is still elusive but simultaneously bright and daring to keep drawing us near. More than ever, they stand up as their own band: if Heyday stepped up to say that The Church were finally ready, then what does Starfish say?

CHRISTIE ELIEZER

- “Starfish” is expected in the shops late next week.

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