Friday, October 15, 2021

Review: Expanded Vinyl Reissue of The Church's 'Starfish'

Too far removed from L.A. to be part of the psych-revival scene known as the Paisley Underground, too far removed from the 1960s to be an original psych band, Australia’s The Church were kind of their own thing. At a time when eighties production was so all-powerful that groups such as XTC and The Damned had to don disguises and pretend to actually hail from the sixties in order to make organically retro productions (as The Dukes of Stratosphear and Naz Nomad and the Nightmares, respectively), Steve Kilbey and Marty Willson-Piper owned their era as assuredly as they owned their influences: primarily The Byrds, Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Jones-era Stones, and Love. The results are timeless.

The Church hit their peak with their fifth album, Starfish, which also includes their signature song and the best single of 1987 as far as I’m concerned: “Under the Milky Way” is a track as shimmering, dreamy, and expansive as the astronomical expanse it references. Starfish’s greatness does not exclusively hinge on that classic: tracks such as the brooding opener “Destination”, the gorgeous waltz “Antenna”, and the percolating “Reptile” are only slightly less perfect.

The same could be said of some of the bonus tracks on Intervention Records' new 180-gram, double-LP edition of Starfish, and that includes the superb B-sides “Frozen and Distant” and “Texas Moon”, the Aftermath-like outtake “Perfect Child”, and the “Lucifer Sam”-like one Anna Miranda (a sort of early version of Under the Milky Way that is totally different from, yet almost as good as, the finished version!). It must have hurt to put this stuff on the out-pile.

In keeping with the Intervention philosophy, Ryan K. Smith mastered this new edition of Starfish from the original master tapes using a totally analog process. It sounds absolutely fabulous: every detail of the layered production is sparklingly clear and exquisitely colorful. The vinyl is flat and as quiet as advertised, and the sleeve is heavy and glossy, which is also Intervention's way. If you havent heard this edition of Starfish, you haven’t heard Starfish.
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