Those looking fondly back at the ’80s are often caught up in kitsch cliches, from bouncy Madonna dance hits to Molly Ringwald celluloid tantrums. But in 1988, as so many of the new wave and synth-pop icons that had radically changed the way we hear music were running out of creative steam, The Church were just hitting their stride – and the result was the monumental Starfish, surely one of the most sublime recordings of its time.
The album turns 30 this year – and to properly honor it (they’ll play Starfish in its entirety), the band are undertaking a North American anniversary tour (all dates below). It will kick off in Long Beach September 30, and carry on until October 26, when they will do the second of a pair of gigs at NYC’s City Winery.
Looking back, the Aussie quartet had rode their particular skill with neo-psychedelic revivalism to ever-increasing cult success throughout their first eight years of existence. But when Starfish‘s first single “Under the Milky Way” hit the airwaves, it was clear that everything was about to change. It indeed launched them into genuine stardom, with frontman Steve Kilbey finally emerging as the ethereal post-punk romantic he’d surely always meant to be.
To be sure, the song’s swoon-worthy lyrics – “And it’s something quite peculiar / Something shimmering and white / Leads you here despite your destination / Under the Milky Way tonight” – delivered in Kilbey’s uncommonly sensual, world-weary baritone still send shivers. While the exhilarating “Reptile” (with its stark but slitheringly sexual guitar riffs) captured all the thrill of the femme fatale’s fatal grip; and “North, South, East And West” poetically encapsulated the tensions of modern life – with lyrics that are still startlingly relevant (“Wear a gun and be proud / But bare breasts aren’t allowed.”
Guitarist Peter Koppes perfectly sums up the band’s enduring, if enigmatic appeal: “Music is like inner space and we’re astronauts,” he says. “It’s a spellbinding thing, it’s hypnotizing. That’s why people like it. It takes them into another world and we’re here to open those doors.”
Something quite peculiar…