Review Summary: An excellent and artistic mix of 80s alt-rock and progressive rock, possibly one of the last great albums of the 80s.
The 80s… What a unique decade that was. A decade characterized by reverbed vocals, reverbed guitars, reverbed drums, an insane amount of arena anthems, and lots and lots of hair. Lots of hair. If it’s my own personal and humble opinion, I think that the 80s were kind of a low point in rock music. The music from the 80s has always seemed to me to be too shallow, too accessible, too repetitive, too formulaic. I mean, let’s be honest, most hair anthems do follow the same exact structure. It does feel like thousands of bands listened to one, reberby record and did the exact same thing. For ten years. That’s not to say that it was all
bad. It would be a crime not to mention greats like The Smiths, The Cure, and The Talking Heads. Despite this, I am, overall, not impressed by the 80s.
I am tempted to say that even the 80s were sick of the 80s. Do you ever notice the suddenness of stylistic change from the 80s to the 90s" It’s virtually instantaneous. In ’89, we have hair bands making music with reverbed drums, and in ’91, we have Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins channeling focused, heavy grunge. Sure, there might have been one or two transition bands, but I think that as the 80s drew to a close, the bands of the time, sensing the end of their era, pulled out some impressive work. And that’s where Starfish
comes in. Having been released in 1988, I think that this album is one of the treasures from the end of the 80s. Is it the last great album of the 80s" Certainly not. That cherished title goes to The Cure’s Disintegration
. However, I think that Starfish
is often left out and brushed over when looking for great albums of the 80s. Standing as The Church’s breakthrough album, Starfish
is a mysterious, otherworldly, progressive effort that has undoubtedly stood the test of time.
is one of the most eerie and interesting albums of its time in terms of its musical atmosphere, and how the instruments, effects, and lyrics reflect that atmosphere. Unlike countless 80s albums, The Church saturates their instruments with reverb and delay with a certain purpose, giving the album an ethereal, otherworldly tone. Delated guitars blend with ambient synthesizers and paint a blurry image, which is built up even more by the lyrics of the songs. In the song “Destination,” we hear the line, “It’s not a religion, it’s just a technique.
” Yet, throughout the entirety of the album, it seems as though the band is undertaking some sort of religious experience, as if trying to transcend their current plane of existence. “Destination” serves as an excellent introduction to such an album, with prominent progressive influences and an unorthodox structure.. “Under The Milky Way” could be the best song on the record, featuring an ancient sounding acoustic guitar and… wait for it… an epic, alienish bagpipe solo. Does it give one goosebumps" For certain. Songs “Reptile” and “Blood Money” are almost as good, with catchy guitar hooks and rattling percussion.
This album’s excellence isn’t limited to those tracks, though. The raging solos of “North, South, East, and West” make that track one of the better tracks on Starfish
, along with its cryptic rhymes, as Steve Kilbey murmurs something about “liquidity” over and over. The steady plod of “Antenna” and “Hotel Womb” make the album worth it as well, with the latter including some of the creepiest lyrics on the record: “She’s got the face of the widow who keeps following me/ And the body of my bride.
” More goosebumps" But, even then, just to barely keep listeners from drowning in the abyss of the ethereal unknown, The Church sticks on “A New Season,” an upbeat tune, and maybe, along with “Destination,” one of the more progressive. This album could be a complete classic, if it wasn’t for some filler tracks. “Lost,” in comparison to some of the other tracks, is plain boring, and seems, ironically, aimless and lost. “Spark” isn’t too much better, seeming overdramatic as co-vocalist Marty Willson overpronounces all of the syllables in his lyrics, but the song’s bridge is quite entertaining.
Those flaws notwithstanding, Starfish
stands as an excellent effort in the mysterious terrain of progressive rock, and for sure one of the last great albums of the 80s.
Under The Milky Way
North, South, East, and West