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The Church

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4 stars [Sixth in a series] After taking an almost three-year hiatus, The Church returned with an album that shows just how comfortable they had become with their progressive sensibilities (as well as providing a vehicle for Kilbey's increasingly poetic lyrics). "Destination" begins the journey with the most musically "thoughtful" composition they had so far produced. It is a beautifully constructed piece containing a deceptively simple, but effective, arrangement (including a surprising, almost "empty" pre-chorus, showing their increasing comfort with "space"), and their most maturely textured sound so far. Their second (unexpected, runaway) hit - "Under the Milky Way" - contains some of their developing "trademarks," including a crisp acoustic guitar, a simple, haunting keyboard figure, and a lush, expansive atmosphere. "Blood Money" has a more straightforward feel, but retains most of the elements that the band was beginning to incorporate as part of its now-almost-fully-developed "sound." Although seemingly way-simple, "Lost" is a very good example of the sound and approach that would "mark" The Church's style (especially on "Holograms of Baal"). "North, South, East and West" is another excellent example of the kind of expansive atmosphere, guitar figures and arrangement that would come to dominate - indeed, define - the band's sound. "Spark," a throw-back to the band's earlier sound (rock-y, pop-ish), is interesting, even captivating, in its own way. "Antenna" brings us back to the band's new sensibilities, this time with a wonderful rhythm guitar figure, a tight arrangement, and that now-trademark lush, expansive atmosphere. Along with "Destination," my fave on the album. "Reptile" is more straightforward, though it maintains many of the elements now associated with the band's approach. "A New Season" seems to be an idea that didn't quite cohere, and is the album's "weak link." "Hotel Womb" ends the album on an appropriate (if somewhat melancholy) note. All the requisite elements are here, though assembled in a slightly different way. Indeed, it provides an almost perfect transition from this album to the next: it could just as appropriately have served as the opening song on "Gold Afternoon Fix."
Report this review (#9)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Edited 10/4/2005!

The songs presented on this album here are all very nice and a nice listen, in fact one of them even became something like a "airplay hit" and probably more songs on this album would have the (doubtful) "quality" for this because most of them are quite radio-friendly I have to say. Obviously here no keyboards at all have been involved and the music is dominated by jangling guitars and could be compared with other Indie rock bands from that time like The Verve, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths.The album is a nice Indie pop rock one and for that reason I can't give it more than 2 stars,

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Posted Sunday, January 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Starfish" was the lonely commercial adventure for The Church. For a band of an underground nature like this one, this could have been something dangerous. Fortunately they managed to come up with something playable on the radio and reliable to fans taste at the same time.

However, although this album could have been a total masterpiece, probably the clumsyness of the productor messed things up a bit. As Kilbey has mentioned sometimes, "Starfish" is not probably their best album, and he is right, although it was a close try.

To explain this, we can say that this album has a set of brilliant and well performed songs that will be in our memories for a long time, like "Antenna", "North, South, East and West","Under the milky way" of course,"Spark" and "Hotel Womb", one of my band's favourites. Nevertheless, we find another set of songs that sound weak for me, like "Destination", for example. I don't know how they can came with an excellent intro song in an album ("Myrrh") and mess things up in the next. "Reptile" is something that should have appeared in "Gold Afternoon fix" and "Blood money" didn't convince me much

It is a pity, because this album could have been something more that just a major hit, and it has the tendency to be so, but dealing with the concept in an incorrect manner didn't make it perfect. The next album was also a painful proof of this, unfortunately.

Report this review (#52724)
Posted Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Church have released a multitude of albums since 1981, but one stands out for it's compositions and 2 radio-friendly hits: Starfish. Aside from a kind of cool album name, The Church had the insanely catchy "Reptile" with the delayed picking at the beginning of the song that makes it instantly recognizable, as well as "Under the Milky Way", which was the other big hit for them, though not as "rock" as Reptile was. The Church have many other great albums, and an Art Rock band like these guys should not be overlooked. Check them out and relive the songs you forgot all about with Starfish. A very good album, but not totally awesome.
Report this review (#58067)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Easy listening category but at the same time this Australian outfit were/are a cut above a lot of other bands in the same category. Starfish makes for a great listen and has jewels embedded throughout the album. That does mean that it is all not brilliant so yes, it does submit to mediocrity at times.

' Under The Milky Way ' is undoubtedly the star on this album. Other great tracks include ' Spark' and ' Reptile'. Steve Kilbey does his business in the vocal department adding the stalwart bass lines. Is this progressive music? Certainly not but well worth an argument on inclusion on this site. I for one welcome them and their contribution to prog related sounds. No worries Australia! A good album at best but I am sure there are many die hards who would rate this higher. A good comparison would be Lloyd Cole and the Commotions from the UK for the characteristic sound and voice.

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Posted Saturday, February 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm a sucker for a well crafted tune and thats what you get with The Church's release of Starish. With their almost Byrds like jangly guitar sound of Piper and Koppes, as well as a very atmospheric laid back approach, at first I found it difficult to see them as an Art Rock Prog band. However with that said this is a very strong album highlights being too numerous to list. With vocalist/bassist Steve Kilby you get a partially spoken vocal style that certainly gives the band a strong identity and serves as almost another instrument. If this was not a prog site I would give this 5 stars but going by the guidelines I will say 4.5 stars and an excellent addition to any prog music collection.
Report this review (#125345)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars In case you don't know the Church, STARFISH is a delightful album of dreamy, melancholic and nocturnal pop-rock, strongly influenced by early 1980s bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, Aztec Camera and the Sound, but sounding considerably less anguished. If I'm not mistaken (correct me if I'm wrong!) the Church owe a lot to that ideal combination of acoustic-guitar-twinned-with-Rickenbacker. The second tune on this album, 'Under the Milky Way', is one of my favourite (belated) new-wave tracks, and I was very happy when it finally got its due on the original soundtrack of the film DONNIE DARKO, since it was featured in that film's party sequence, if I remember correctly. (Unfortunately, in the revised Director's Cut, which many of you may get to see when you buy the DVD, the song's impact was much reduced: you only hear a snippet of it on the car radio, when Donnie and his Dad go for a ride.) What any of this has to do with prog rock I couldn't tell you. Perhaps there's a certain Syd Barrett influence... Much recommended, in any case!
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Posted Tuesday, December 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is a very special album for me. People have said they feel sorry for me that when I started to really get into music it was 1980, and we all know how bad the eighties were for music. I did feel that way around 1987, it was such a bleak time music wise for me, but not the first half of the decade. I was listening to "Heaven And Hell" by BLACK SABBATH, "Permanent Waves' by RUSH, "Piece Of Mind" by IRON MAIDEN along with AC/DC and the classics like FLOYD and ZEP and many other "Hard Rock" bands of that time. I remember "New Wave" music being all over the radio, I actually liked some of it, it was fun and that's what life was all about for me back then. I never bought any albums by these bands though because I figured there would be one or two good songs and the rest would be awful. I was concerned about that when I bought this cd ("Starfish") recently but how wrong I was.

This is very much a guitar album with those duo guitars offering up these melodies that jangle and echo. Lots of atmosphere and space here. Then we get Kilby's reserved vocals singing these great lyrics. It was the song "Under The Milky Way" that caused me to buy this record in the first place, it just brings back such great memories of the early eighties, and even though it was released much later (1988) it has that "sound" from what was on the radio back then.1980 was such a great year for me, the Trans Am I had bought the year before was done (jacked up, wide rear tires, Crager rims, upgraded stereo) and I just started going out with the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in June of that year.That reminds me of the title of that OCEANSIZE song "Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs", I couldn't believe that she would go out with me. Anyway back then it was all about this green eyed blonde, drugs, music and my car with the Hurst 4 speed shifter. Had to get that in (haha). We would just drive the beaches back then listening to tunes. Anyway the music here by these Australians is very much what i'd call beach music. Just everything about it makes me yearn for those days even though I wouldn't trade my family for any of it. It's hard to explain really.

"Destination" has such a dreamy and lush sound to it, very much a feel good song for me. A top three track too. As is of course "Under The Milky Way". Water just rises to my eyes just about everytime I hear this. Some things can't be explained but when I hear this i'm back in 1980 in my spirit. Just a gorgeous track with that strummed guitar and those almost spoken vocals. "Blood Money" has a great mood to it. It kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes. Love the guitar after 2 minutes. "Lost" just trips along with these incredible lyrics. Great tune. "North, South, East And West" has this really good sounding guitar to open that jangles and echoes. Another favourite for me. "Spark" is the most uptempo and energetic of the lot. "Antenna" opens with more amazing guitar that seems to fill the air. Some mandolin too 2 minutes in. "Reptile" is the other top three. I just can't get enough of these guitar sounds. Beautiful track. "A New Season" is another feel good song. The vocals and guitars seem to blend together to create a haze of pleasure. "Hotel Womb" has a Post-Rock vibe to it. Check out the guitar after 3 1/2 minutes and the drums are very prominant here.

This was like a trip down memory lane even though I never took This trip before. I'm sure this all makes perfect sense.

Report this review (#232977)
Posted Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This sixth album from "The Church" is all about melancholic rock. The band seems to have taken some distance with their new wave oriented sound and released a straight forward good rock album. Still, "Spark" or "Reptile" do sound as most of their previous works.

Lots of guitars, even acoustic moments like during "Under The Milky Way" do provide a fine musical moment. I far much prefer this album than their last three efforts. This one offers a more mature work (maybe that the long three years break was necessary to reach this).

I also agree with the comparison, with the great "Echo & The Bunnymen". Same melancholic and detached approach. I quite like this actually. The Bunnymen were definitely one of the best band of the eighties.

I also have to mention that the prog relation is rather thin on this album; but we are still in front of a good rock album. And when music is good, it is all that matters I guess.

One of my fave is the dynamic and solid "North, South, East And West". The filiation with The Bunnymen has never been so close. Soaring guitars, peaceful and deep vocals. Quite enjoyable for sure.

The only negative point about this album could be that it should have been more varied. After the first half, one gets too much of the same (cf. "Antenna"). In all, this is quite a decent album which I rate with three stars.

Report this review (#239114)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I didn't like a lot of music from the eighties. At that time I was almost listening to Prog Rock bands all the time. But from the mid to late eighties there were at least two FM radio stations in my city ("Rock 101" and "WFM") which started to broadcast some very good music from the eighties, with songs from bands like THE CHURCH, THE FIXX, U2, THE WATERBOYS, etc. But I have to say that while I liked all these songs (mostly in the Pop Rock style) I never was enough interested to go to find their albums in the record shops to buy them.

Recently I was given as a gift some fifty LPs by a friend who didn't want to keep them anymore in his house because he doesn't like to listen to LPs anymore but he didn't want to put them in the garbage bin. He also received the same LPs some years ago from another friend who thought the same. So, maybe now I am the third or fourth owner of all these LPs! If these friends could know that now the LPs are more in the "fad" again (that is, some record companies are since some years ago selling new LP editions with expensive prices of some old albums from a lot of bands) maybe they could want to keep some of these old LPs to at least try to sell them in used LPs shops, a thing that maybe i'm going to do, because I found in this collection of LPs some interesting albums for other people, I think. Maybe I'm going to keep a few for my own record collection, being "good" for my taste. But a lot of them are really "out of my taste", and surprisingly they are in "good state" (more or less) to be sold to those used LPs shops in my city. Why to keep them in my house if I don't like them?

One interesting LP that I found in this collection (and one of the few that I'm not going to sell!) is THE CHURCH's "Starfish" album from 1988.I previously listened to this band in those FM radio stations of my city in the late eighties. Their song called "Under the Milky Way" was played a lot by them then, and I liked the song then. But I completely forgot the song for a long time. But it was until I read the title of the song in the back cover of the LP that I remembered about it. So, I listened to the LP as a whole for the first time, twice, and I liked it. I really think that THE CHURCH for me is not a Prog band. Maybe the band has some Prog Related things in the music, but for me this band is more a Pop Rock or Alternative Rock band in musical style. I even was more surprised to realize that it was included in the Prog Archives discography database, but not having listened to their other albums yet I really don't know if some of their other albums are more Prog Related or not than this album.

Anyway, the album is good, based mostly in guitar playing, with a lot of guitars played with arpeggios and some use of pedal effects (maybe some Chorus pedal effects and reverberation). The guitarists play very good "atmospheric" guitars, also adding some good distorted guitars in some places. There are also some keyboards (played by a session musician) in some songs, also adding "atmospheric" sounds and arrangements to the music. So the music is mostly very "atmospheric". They also sing good lead and backing vocals (with bassist Steve Kilbey being the lead singer most of the time). The recording and mixing of the album are very good, and the best songs in the LP are "Under the Milky Way" (of course, also being a successful Hit Single for the band), and all the songs from the Side Two of the LP ("Spark", "Antenna", "Reptile", "A New Season" and "Hotel Womb"). It is curious that they left most of the best songs in the album for the Side Two of the LP (at least for my taste).

In conclusion: this Australian band and this album are good...not very Prog Related in musical style, but good if you want to listen to some very good "atmospheric" Pop Rock or Alternative Rock music from the eighties.

Report this review (#1470403)
Posted Monday, September 28, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Church's Starfish finds the band crafting delicate jangle pop numbers with just a hint of pizzazz that reminds me of Felt's output during their stint with Creation records, or perhaps You Can't Hide Your Love Forever by Orange Juice. The closing number Hotel Womb might be a little too fascinated with itself and take a little too long, but on the other hand that kind of fits the insular tone of the song, and the dreamy, psychedelic influences on the band ensures that their jangley sound remains compelling throughout the album. One to kick back and lose yourself in on a summer's evening.
Report this review (#1602674)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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