The Church - Starfish
Much as I have tried, I suspect I have not tried hard enough. I have to ask myself the question, ‘am I becoming tired of guitar driven bands?' The answer is no, I just struggle with this particular album. For some reason this does not move me as much as I expected, and indeed hoped it would. This is the best output by the Church, and it is solidly guitar driven no nonsense post punk inspired jangle pop. The twin guitars form the rhythm and provide a solid basis, then the bass line rolls in and finally the drums kick off. If that is not a good formula for a set of inspired songs then I don't know what it. The trouble is that it all comes across as being too detached from the emotions which one would have anticipated would lie behind the desire to make it.
Within this format, "Destination" is as good a track as any to start an album. The problem is that, for me, the album doesn't seem to lead anywhere after that. It is almost as if, with an opener entitled "Destination", the album arrives at the beginning and nothing else follows with any purpose or direction. There is not a track on here, with the possible exception of "Under the Milky Way" which makes me feel the need to put the album on again after I have listened to it.
I am perhaps being unfair, but this description is symptomatic of how I feel about the album as a whole. It is just there. It doesn't call to me and it doesn't inspire me in the way in which I thought it would or feel it ought to. "Under the Milky Way", "Reptile" and "Hotel Womb" are probably the best tracks on the album. What makes them stand out is the lyrical strength which enables, all but briefly, the listener to overcome the apparent deficiencies of the overall sound. Don't get me wrong; this is not poor production or lack of talent. It is not even lack of good material. It just sounds too mechanical and lacks the underlying passion which is always what I look for in a great album. Once you are past those two tracks there is little here which remains to hold your attention.
Another problem is that far too many songs outstay their welcome. We all know the feeling when we have some guest who has come round for tea and cake and tells you their story. Once they have told you their story, they re-tell it, only this time with a slightly different perspective. You don't want to be rude and cut them off, but you're tired and you have to go to work tomorrow so can you please hurry up and get to the end so I can shuffle you out the door with a cheery wave and an inner feeling of relief. This is the feeling inspired in me by tracks such as "Blood Money" and "Hotel Womb", both of which are songs which similarly tax my patience by outstaying their welcome.
I am not sure if this totally explains the lack of enthusiasm I have for an album which so many others rate so highly. This was as good as the Church were going to get. And yet there is this something lacking in Starfish. It is at times derivative in an under-achieving sort of way, while at others it fails to live up to expectations. Perhaps the Aussie rock of the era was too mainstream for my tastes and the band deliberately aimed this album at a market which is not one with which I would normally have much in common. Perhaps this sounds too close to the new romantics in terms of the tone and nuances of the guitars. Sorry, but I am really struggling to get into this.
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