“Starfish” by The Church (No. 29)

Starfish by The Church (album cover)If it weren’t for lucking into a few decent mix tapes and dubs of entire albums, I’m not sure what my musical tastes would be like today. Case in point, Starfish by The Church.

Starfish landed on my radar thanks to a guy named Kent who loaned me a mixtape with “Under the Milky Way,” “Reptile,” and one or two other songs off the album. (Not the entire thing, though, I had to dig that up myself shortly after.)

The Church’s one perfect album

Musically, Starfish is unassailable. It’s a perfect album, start to finish. The Church are completely dialed in and the whole album works as a cohesive unit. But it also sends me back to 1988/1989 and reminds me of long drives at night, coming home from work or dates with the car window down and enjoying the night air. Starfish is the kind of album that makes you drive around the block a few times if a song isn’t quite over when you get home.

The album begins with “Destination,” a piece that ebbs and flows like any good story. The repeated guitar melody on this one is sure to get stuck in your head, or at least it does in mine.

From “Destination” we flow into “Under the Milky Way,” which is likely The Church’s most successful song. It’s easy to see why. The acoustic intro and refrain is compelling, Steve Kilbey’s vocals are warm and soothing, and the lyrics are evocative. The solo on “Milky Way,” is just enough to sink your teeth into but not enough to be dinosaur rock. The tone is perfect.

“Lost” is almost in shoe-gazer territory, with its almost glacial pace and wall-of-sound approach. It’s still this side of the rock/pop fence, though, especially with the slightly bluesy solo mid-way through the song and upbeat harmonies.

I could go song-by-song, but the point is – this album is effing fantastic and you should listen to it. The whole thing. Like, now.

It’s something of an anomaly – I’ve checked out several other albums by The Church, and they have some good stuff, but … nothing as cohesive and compelling as Starfish. There’s not a single bad, or even mediocre, song on the album. At just more than 46 minutes, time flies when you have this on the stereo. Any time I’ve sat down to listen to it, I get drawn in and lost in its rich tapestry.

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