The CHURCH – ” Starfish ” 2 LP Set Reissue

Posted: September 22, 2021 in MUSIC

Australian band The Church‘s fifth album “Starfish” is being reissued as a 2LP vinyl set in November. The 1988 album was a surprise commercial success, particularly in America where it went gold and first single ‘Under The Milky Way’ climbed into the top 30 hit of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The Church were founded in 1980 in Canberra, Australia. Their jangly guitar pop, combined with emotional and smart lyrics, proved an immediate smash ‘down under’ and beyond. 

The reissue expands “Starfish” from 10 tracks to 18, with the album proper across almost three sides of vinyl (“for maximum bass and dynamics” say the label). The bonus tracks include acoustic versions of ‘Under The Milky Way’ and ‘Antenna’ and other studio recordings. The Church’s Starfish is a dreamy, atmospheric masterpiece, guitar-driven alt-rock before alt-rock was a term. It includes the timeless smash hit ‘Under the Milky Way,’ and ‘Reptile,’ both First Wave staples. Intervention’s 2X 180-Gram LP, Artist-Approved Expanded Edition is 18-tracks total, including 8 amazing bonus tracks that were not on the original LP. The other tracks are so strong that it’s very apparent that Starfish could have been a potent double LP. 

This release is from Intervention Records and they state that the album and bonus tracks are 100 percent analog-mastered from the original analogue tapes, by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound. We are promised these will be “ultra-quiet” because they are pressed at RTI in Camarillo, CA and that Intervention “replaces it’s stampers every 500 copies so every pressing is is a hot stamper”.

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.

Clearly much effort is going into this, although being an import here in the UK, it’s pretty expensive. If you are wondering about a CD version, Intervention actually issued that early on this year. Not just CD either, the it’s a hybrid dual-layer SACD which is compatible with all normal CD players but gives you access to the hi-res stereo on SACD players (there’s no surround version). This contains the same 18-tracks.

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

The artwork has been restored and this becomes a gatefold with the original inner sleeves printed as the inside gatefold panels. The jacket is the ‘tip-on’ variety made by Stoughton printing in L.A. This means heavyweight card with the artwork ‘pasted’ onto the board. This has then been laminated.

Starfish is reissued as a 2LP set on 26th November 2021, via Intervention.

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