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Signing to Arista might have seemed an unusual move to start with, getting produced by L.A.

studio types
like Waddy Wachtel even more so. But for the Church the rewards were great -- if sometimes too clean
around the corners in comparison to the song-for-song masterpiece Heyday, Starfish set up the band's well-
deserved breakthrough in the States. The reason was "Under the Milky Way," still one of the most haunting
and elegant songs ever to make the Top 40. As Kilbey details a lyric of emotional distance and atmosphere,
the band executes a quietly beautiful -- and as is so often the case with the Church, astonishingly well-
arranged -- song, with mock bagpipes swirling through the mix for extra effect. That wasn't the only strong
point on an album with more than a few; the lead-off track "Destination" was as strong an album opener as
"Myrrh," if slower paced and much more mysterious, piano blending through the song's steady pace. The rest
of the first side has its share of highlights, such as the quietly threatening edge of "Blood Money" and the
confident, restrained charge of "North, South, East and West." Willson-Piper gets to lead off the second side
with "Spark," a vicious, tight rocker that captures some of the best '60s rock edge and gives it a smart update.
Equally strong is Kilbey's "Reptile," with an appropriately snaky guitar line and rhythm punch offset against
weirdly soothing keyboards. Koppes has an okay vocal to his credit on "A New Season," but the stronger
tracks are Kilbey's other contributions, the strong guitar waltz of "Antenna" (with great guest mandolin
from David Lindley) and the closing charge (and very Church-like title) of "Hotel Womb." Performances
throughout are at the least fine and at the most fantastic.
Reptile
Composed by Marty Willson-Piper / Peter Koppes / Richard Ploog / Steve Kilbey
Song Review by Stewart Mason
One of the few strong songs on the disappointingly slick Starfish (and, truthfully, pretty
much the last really good single the Church ever released), "Reptile" is a five-minute return
to the glory days of Of Skin and Heart and The Blurred Crusade, a thrilling psych-pop blast
built on a nagging stop-start guitar riff that continues, almost unchanged, throughout the
entire song, building a palpable tension through the verses that is only partially alleviated
by Steve Kilbey's sneering chorus. Lyrically, of course, the song barely means a blessed
thing -- Kilbey's lyrics never do -- but for once he does sing as if he might be somewhat
personally invested in them. The rattling rhythm section only adds to the effect, with
Richard Ploog's kinetic hi-hat work driving the beat. The Church's last blowout before they
succumbed to terminal preciousness, "Reptile" is one of their finest songs.
Under the Milky Way
Song Review by Ned Raggett
Scoring a left-field pop hit in America might not have been the goal when Starfish was
being recorded, but that's what "Under the Milky Way" did - even more impressively, with
a strange, downright gloomy song musically and lyrically, rather different from what
R.E.M.'s at-least tunefully upbeat "The One I Love" did for them. With a quiet acoustic
guitar start - a bit of production effects making it sound almost lost and forlorn, much like
Steve Kilbey's singing with it - the song then picks up a calm, steady energy to add a bit of
subtle contrast. If the Marty Willson-Piper/Peter Koppes guitar team is less prominent
throughout much of the song than the strange, haunting keyboards, it's all made up for with
the amazing mock-bagpipe solo that adds an immediate, unexpected surge to the whole
song. Calling, mournful and truly artistic, it fully transforms the song into the piece of
melancholic majesty it is, Kilbey's sly, questioning lyric and expectedly direct but careful
singing just what was needed, his concluding repetition of the title as moaning guitar solos
softly unreel in the background a last winning touch.