25 years on: The Church “Starfish” appreciation thread / song-by-song review

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by 1970, Mar 1, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. heyday2day

    heyday2day Forum Resident

    "NSEW"

    As I mentioned somewhere earlier, this is one of my favorite tracks on the album. I loved it from the first time I heard it and still get a kick when I hear it. It's staying power with me is a bit odd because it's usually the tracks that don't hit me between the eyes that become favorites over time, and the ones I like immediately upon first listen tend to lose their impact over time. Not so with this one, though trying to identify just exactly why is difficult.

    Again (I know it's old hat saying this but it's true!), PK and MWP reach jangle perfection! Add in the atmospheric soundscapes (is that a word?) and I still find it irresistible.

    A perfect 80's song but without the cheese so much of the decades music suffered from. Thanks especially to Mr. Ploog for that.

    I always thought of this as a more rocking sibling to "Destination".

    Those backing vocals slay me every time. Spot on assessment by Efus that this was the last of the big backing vocal albums. Love the texture and dimension they add to the early Church.

    The line "the face of today is just a scalpel away" adds many layers of meaning to the track. Great lyric.

    I think you may be onto something there about the chorus. It's definitely the chorus that makes it special, though I don't think the band is unconvincing during the verses, even if they are a bit ho-hum compared to the chorus. I'd never thought about it that way but I understand where you're coming from.
     
    vonwegen and 1970 like this.
  2. heyday2day

    heyday2day Forum Resident

    "Spark" gets hammered quite a bit and fairly so. It's just not close to being on the same level as the other tracks on the album. It's not that I don't like MWP's voice (he's had some great Church vocals) or that I prefer my Church more cerebral, it's just that it seems very tossed off. Maybe it was intended but I definitely get the feeling that very little time or thought was put into the track. Maybe the band didn't have anymore quality material to record, though I find that very hard to believe considering Kilbey's productivity. There are some nice lyrical lines (one of which was quoted by Louis in his write up about the track) but the subtlety and vocal nuance's that may help make the track more interesting aren't there.

    There are about five-six tracks that I skip in the totality of the bands catalog. "Spark" is one of those.

    MWP's previous vocal contribution, "The View" on Heyday, and "Russian Autumn Heart" on the following Gold Afternoon Fix are much, much better than "Spark".
     
    1970 likes this.
  3. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon USA

    Just to clarify for the folks in the mezzanine, "The View" was originally a Heyday outtake, relegated as the B side for the "Tantalized" single. Later, it reappeared as a bonus track on Heyday CD reissues. It's a nice song, and IMHO, if it had traded places with "Youth Worshipper," it would have made the original Heyday an even stronger album.

    I certainly agree that "Russian Autumn Heart" is a stronger song than "Spark." Very, very cool track on Gold Afternoon Fix. It rocks!

    And while we're at it, I'll add that of all of MWP's songs on Church albums, my personal favorite (not just from the Arista years, but of all time) is "The Myths You Made" from the Sometime Anywhere bonus CD, Somewhere Else. I just wish that one had been recorded better.

    ****

    OK, so I realize this post has been a considerable digression from the intent of the thread, but since there are only a few of us here shouting down a rabbit hole, I don't think it really matters much. :) I like discussing all things Church.

    .
     
    JeffMo and Efus like this.
  4. bonjo

    bonjo Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I love Spark, probably my favorite MWP Church track! And the tossed off quality is part of its appeal, the Church can always use more of that.

    It's way better than the mumbly/dopey "Russhummed Otttuh Mwarf" on GAF.
     
  5. BadJack

    BadJack doorman who always high-fives children of divorce

    Location:
    Boston, MA
    I'm quite happy to watch the few of you shouting; please carry on!
     
  6. Efus

    Efus Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Ahhh, "Spark", the little song that could.
    While others kick it around for what its not, let me praise it for what I think it is.

    While not as mighty, or apparently worked on/thought about as much as what was offered up on Side 1, theres still lots of little things going on in this song to make it quite appealling to me.
    I really enjoyed the drum performance on this song, with the sharp snare drum stops, and rumbling toms and sustained chords build into the peak and echo vocal of the song title.
    The vocal, notable in that its not Kilbey, while I agree not particularly strong, is treated with a sort of a wet reverb and obvious echo, more produced than the music.
    Love the line, "where far off things could be quite near" this tune strikes me as tribute to an old girlfriend, but MPW last line snaps you out of the reminising with "Climb, don't ever turn back"
    In fact, I really dug all the lyrics on this tune.
    As I noted earlier, due to circumstance that I was in when I came across Starfish, it fit right in to what I needed to hear at the time.

    I like "Spark" quite a lot, a simple pleasure, and to me, a bit deeper than just a toss off. I think it sets up the next song on the album quite well.
     
    vonwegen, wayneklein and 1970 like this.
  7. JeffMo

    JeffMo Format Agnostic

    Location:
    New England
    Are there any fans in the Church mezzanine?!? I'm sure there are some people who just don't like them (hard to believe, I know), but it seems to me the vast majority of people are completely unaware of the band, and those that are aware, are seriously hardcore fans!

    I haven't actually played Starfish for some time, but tonight it is going on the cd player in honor of small but awesome thread here..

    I will keep an open mind about Spark tonight but it is not a song I care for much. This will sound sacriligious to the faithful but I'd prefer 10 Steve Kilbey sung songs on every album and have the awesome dual guitarists stick to backing vocals and wizardry sounds.
     
  8. bonjo

    bonjo Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I agree with you for every album post-Starfish, but I like MWP's tracks on Blurred Crusade, Remote Luxury, and I love Spark. Also love PK's 'A New Season' but I guess that's still coming up.

    And I agree with what someone said earlier, Antenna is even more amazing with Spark leading the way. Something about those two together is magic.
     
  9. AlienRendel

    AlienRendel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, il
    I think that "Spark" is (along with "UTMW") the most immediately accessible thing on the album. It has a nice garage rock feel and was one of the first songs that I latched onto with I first got the album. Great though Starfish is, I think most of the material on this album takes a few listens to digest and having songs like "Spark" and "UTMW" on the album is/was key to pulling in first time listeners and making them want to keep exploring the album.
     
    vonwegen and Efus like this.
  10. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon USA
    7. “Antenna”

    We’ve now reached one of my favorite moments on Starfish, not just because we are presented with a brilliant song, but also because it’s brilliantly placed in the song order. To my ears, the lilting “Antenna” arrives at a critical moment on the album, where things could unravel considerably with the wrong track. And, as I listened to Side Two again to write this, I tried to imagine Starfish without “Antenna,” and in that scenario the fabric of the album is severely compromised.

    I see “Antenna” as the musical and lyrical equivalent of a beacon. How else would Starfish transition so sleekly from the impetuous, energetic “Spark” to the detached, menacing “Reptile?” Here we have the bridge for all thematic elements presented before and still to follow. Here is the song that effectually sets up the rest of the album.

    The beautifully idiosyncratic, recurring guitar motif that introduces “Antenna” grounds its form and makes it truly distinctive. Presented in bars of 12/8, the composition splendidly writhes its way through on a colorful canvas of interwoven ideas.

    Over a single guitar backdrop, Steve Kilbey starts out by gently posing a question to his subject: Why do you always wrongly assume/That you're so well aware/of what's happening there/Right here in this room?

    Full band kicks in. You’re just an antenna/You're just a wire/There's a thousand tongues wagging in your ears tonight/Turn around and you call me a liar… The narration goes from subtle to caustic. The metaphor is an indictment, yet it lays on that canvas like shiny clear-coat. The carefully crafted, thoughtfully recorded tracks peak with effusive, near-symphonic guitar swails during the refrains, and again in the outro. Some tasteful guest mandolin work by the inimitable David Lindley adds texture throughout.


    [​IMG]

    I can’t say enough about this song, nor can I find words to adequately describe it. So much so, I just used a word that doesn’t exist: swail. But I post this in the hope that I have somehow given “Antenna” its just due.


    ****


    Next up: “Reptile”

    .
     
    vonwegen likes this.
  11. AlienRendel

    AlienRendel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, il
    "Antenna" was the last song on the album to hit me. About 10 years in, I went.....oooooh, brilliant.
     
    vonwegen and 1970 like this.
  12. davers

    davers Forum Resident

    Antenna is one of the cornerstones of this already wonderful album; I can't imagine 'Starfish' without it. Another Church song where the guitar tone is just perfect...and that's just the strumming part!
     
    vonwegen and 1970 like this.
  13. JeffMo

    JeffMo Format Agnostic

    Location:
    New England
    Love this song and agree with you on the placement in the running order. The Church are very good about sequencing albums and on Starfish in particular.
     
    1970 likes this.
  14. JeffMo

    JeffMo Format Agnostic

    Location:
    New England
    Does anyone on this thread own the recent 30th anniversary release of this album? I ask because MWP wrote liner notes to these releases - I had of course completed my Church canon just before this and couldn't justify buying each of them again!

    I ask because I'm genuinely curious to know what MWP thinks about each of these songs we have been discussing.
     
  15. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon USA

    As you know, the Second Motion reissues use the 2002 EMI remasterings, so nothing new there. However, the Starfish CD is worth owning just for Marty Willson-Piper's detailed liner notes. (IMO they eclipse the Lurie book on that subject... more insightful and obviously more personal.) I was told by Second Motion that all the other reissues in the 30th anniversary series, with the exception of Priest=Aura, also contain MWP liner notes. So I plan on picking up the rest.

    .
     
  16. JeffMo

    JeffMo Format Agnostic

    Location:
    New England
    If I didn't already have the 2002 masterings I would have picked these up! In fact, I don't have the remasters for Sometime Anywhere or Magician Like The Spirits so I'll def get those if the series continues (doubtful given the public squabble with Second Motion unfortunately).

    MWP did write a wonderful essay about thes songs/albums in the free tour program on the 30th anniversary concert that I attended. I'll have to pull that out and read what he wrote about Starfish!
     
  17. Efus

    Efus Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Antenna- another great tune, placed in the right spot as Louis noted, and brilliantly produced.
    Its interesting how the musical structure for the verse is never repeated in this song after its first sung. Its only the pre-chorus, a small bridge (very Beatlesque imo) and chorus after that, thats repeated a couple times.
    Kilbey once again sounds great, his bass is low in the mix, I would have liked to have heard a bit more of that, because there is a lot of top end in this song.
    However, SK's big moment on bass is about to arrive....

    It been mentioned a few times, that MPW has written his thoughts on these songs. It'd be great if its available, to get more of those put up to read, as I don't have the 30th Anniversary edition.
     
    1970 likes this.
  18. JeffMo

    JeffMo Format Agnostic

    Location:
    New England
    Who wants to take one for the team and rebuy Starfish to get the new liner notes!?!
     
  19. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon USA

    That is a good idea, I hadn't thought of it prior. Here is what he wrote:



    I have to say that if MWP ever publishes his memoirs, I will buy the book. Looks like his website is offline now.

    .
     
    vonwegen likes this.
  20. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon USA
    8. “Reptile”


    It’s getting late on Starfish, and it won’t be long before the clock strikes twelve. The Church are not about to let up, though. The first time listener is about to get a lesson, and the long-time fan is going to get a reminder: there is no filler on Starfish.

    Everything about the dynamic “Reptile” reveals exactly what it is: instrumentally animated, lyrically illustrated, meticulously arranged, decisively performed, methodically recorded and painstakingly mixed. Calculated for arrant effect, everything here is left to The Church’s collective imagination and the producers' intent (and theirs alone); nothing is left to chance. Clinical as all this may sound, the song is a crucible for the listener who grasps its substance.

    Prior to reading Marty Willson-Piper’s liner notes for “Reptile,” I had (reasonably but incorrectly) assumed the foundation for its composition originated with Steve Kilbey’s expressive bass lines. But we know now MWP’s opening guitar figure was the catalyst.³ It makes perfect sense. One can almost hear how the entire piece might have evolved, layer upon layer: MWP’s synchronous "lead-rhythm" guitar line; Richard Ploog’s mercurial drum pattern; bass punches that liquefy into the slick, melodic bass lines that Kilbey cleverly answers with his voice; a restrained synthesizer, murmuring like an apparition; Peter Koppes’ up-front and center, highly expressive lead guitar fills. All of the elements are unique voices, counterpoint upon counterpoint, perfectly placed and drenched in sonant reverb, converging at the driving refrains. The slide-soaked bridge, replete with tempo change and a rattlesnake tambourine, is a fanciful departure.


    Had you coiled around my arm
    How could you ever know
    How I loved your diamond eyes
    But that was long ago
    Go now, you've been set free
    Another month or so you'll be poisoning me
    With your lovely smile
    I see you slither away with your skin and your tail
    Your flickering tongue and your rattling scales
    Like a real reptile...

    [​IMG]


    To hell with any backlash, my mind is made up. I will state here, unequivocally, that “Reptile” is one of the most innovative rock songs under 5 minutes ever devised.


    ****

    Next up: “A New Season”


    ****


    ¹ Willson-Piper, Marty: liner notes, The Church Starfish, 2011, Second Motion Records. Text ©2011 Sony/Arista. All rights reserved by the copyright holder.
    ² Livewire’s One on One: Livewire’s Exclusive Interview with Steve Kilbey of The Church, concertlivewire.com, May 11, 2004.
    ³ same as ¹
    Zuel, Bernard: "Wishing On A Star: The Church Suffer Under the Bad Karma of L.A., Find Communion with Each Other, and Deliver a Hit Album," Rolling Stone Australia, Issue 419, June 1988

    .
     
    vonwegen and Efus like this.
  21. Efus

    Efus Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Well done, Louis, tremendous summary of this great track.

    Reptile is a monster of a track, no doubt. To feeble to adore? I think not.
    I had seen "UTMW" on MTV, and thought what an interesting song.
    But when I heard "Reptile" it really sealed the deal for me, and that I had to buy "Starfish" and check out what these guys were all about.

    I'd give big ups to Peter Koppes here, a guy that hasn't been given much time in this "Starfish" discussion.
    With all the great performances on "Reptile", as noted by Louis, I think it was Koppes' who stood out most, and brilliantly, especially when this was performed live.
    And I think its easily Kilbey's best playing on the album, what a bass line.

    From a 1988 Italian TV appearance (a little rough on the sound at the beginning, but they really cook on this, especially PK)
     
    vonwegen and 1970 like this.
  22. AlienRendel

    AlienRendel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago, il
    "Reptile" is one of the most brilliantly arranged songs I've ever heard. There is a pretty basic descending chord pattern at the heart of this song, but none of the instruments play it. Instead, each instrument hints at it, dances around it, insinuating the chords, rather than overtly playing them. This song is like a clinic in how to arrange.
     
    vonwegen, 1970 and BadJack like this.
  23. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Oregon USA
    :thumbsup: Excellent! :thumbsup:

    .
     
  24. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    For me, Starfish was the perfect after-gig album. Whether we were on tour or just playing Nashville, it was the perfect closer.
     
    1970 likes this.
  25. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    Gold Afternoon Fix was a frustrating comedown after Starfish's peaks. For one thing, the vocals on what would've been the best tunes felt flat and somehow incomplete. Every time I listened to it, my feeling was "if only they had worked on it harder!"
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page

molar-endocrine