Starfish (album)

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Starfish album.jpg
Studio album by
Released16 February 1988
GenreAlternative rock, psychedelic rock, dream pop
LabelMushroom (Australia)
Arista (International)
ProducerGreg Ladanyi, Waddy Wachtel and The Church
The Church chronology
Gold Afternoon Fix
Singles from Starfish
  1. "Under the Milky Way"
    Released: February 1988
  2. "Reptile"
    Released: April 1988
  3. "Destination"
    Released: July 1988
  4. "Antenna"
    Released: October 1988

Starfish is the fifth album by the Australian rock band The Church, released in February 1988.[1] The band's breakthrough album, Starfish went gold in America and has remained their most commercially successful release. The album sold 600,000 copies in the United States alone.[2] The first single, "Under the Milky Way", charted well in the American Top 40, peaking at No. 24 and No. 2 on Mainstream Rock Tracks, leading to significant exposure of the then relatively underground Australian act. In Australia "Under the Milky Way" climbed to No. 5, and Starfish reached No. 7 on the album charts, the band's highest positions ever in their home market.[3]


The album was recorded/produced in Los Angeles by L.A. session musicians Waddy Wachtel and Greg Ladanyi.[1] The recording is more sparse and open than its predecessor, Heyday, which featured orchestral arrangements with brass and strings. Many of its songs have seen heavy rotation in live set lists, and the album remains a favorite among many fans.

The song "Under the Milky Way" was co-written by Kilbey with his then-girlfriend Karin Jansson of Pink Champagne. When drummer Richard Ploog was unable to find the right feel for the song, the band played to a click track and session musician Russ Kunkel was brought in to add the drums and percussion later.[4]

The album's title was taken from singer/bassist Steve Kilbey's nickname for friend/ musical partner Donnette Thayer, who signed herself that way on postcards she sent to Kilbey. Kilbey contributed a long untitled poem to the album's liner notes. "Hotel Womb" has dream-themed lyrics relating to an imagined wedding.[citation needed] Music videos were filmed for "Under The Milky Way" and "Reptile." The fifth season of the US TV show, Miami Vice, featured two songs from the album. "Under the Milky Way" was used in an episode called "Asian Cut" (aired 13 January 1989), and "Blood Money" was showcased throughout "Heart Of Night" (18 November 1988).

1988 tour[edit]

Touring for Starfish in 1988 marked the first time that the bulk of the shows were in North America. European dates were limited to two weeks in March and April, and another week at the end of June, while the only Australian shows were in Melbourne and Sydney at the end of April. The North American leg of the tour was extensive, however, covering virtually all of May and June, another month of dates from mid-August to mid-September and still more shows in October. On the August and September dates, The Church were paired with Peter Murphy, former lead singer of the cult post-punk/Goth band Bauhaus, now pursuing a mildly successful solo career. Murphy apparently expressed displeasure at being relegated to the status of opening act, but there was nothing he could do about it - "Under the Milky Way" was climbing the Billboard singles chart, while Murphy would not achieve a similar breakthrough for another two years. For a number of other dates on the tour, the band was paired with another of their heroes: Tom Verlaine of Television. Verlaine supported The Church. For their encore every night ("You Took"), they brought Verlaine on stage with them for a three-way guitar duel. Some fans consider the Verlaine/Church shows to be some of the best live performances they've ever witnessed.[5] Drummer Richard Ploog became gradually disengaged from the band during this tour, even though he stayed with The Church for another two years. The exact nature of his malady is unknown but most agree that LSD exacerbated his condition.[6] There were degrees of internal strife within the band and a high pressure of expectation from Arista. Because of this, Kilbey smoked more pot on this tour than at any other point in his life - such large quantities that he routinely coughed up blood.[7] By the tour's end, The Church had performed 94 shows across the US, Canada, Europe, the UK and Australia.[8]


"Under the Milky Way" was featured in a 1989 episode of Miami Vice titled "Asian Cut" and the 2001 film Donnie Darko. The song "Reptile" was used in Toy Machine's skateboarding video Suffer the Joy. A sheet music/guitar tablature book was released for the entire album by Cherry Lane.

In October 2010, it was listed in the top 40 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.[9]

In 2011 the album, along with Priest=Aura and Untitled #23, was played in its entirety on the band's 30th Anniversary "Future, Past, Perfect" tour.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[10]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[11]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[12]
The Village VoiceB[13]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, critic Ned Raggett wrote that "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," and added that the performances throughout "are at the least fine and at the most fantastic."[10]

Track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

1."Destination" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)5:51
2."Under the Milky Way" (Kilbey, Karin Jansson)4:57
3."Blood Money" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)4:23
4."Lost" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)4:47
5."North, South, East And West" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)4:59

Side two[edit]

6."Spark" (Willson-Piper)3:45
7."Antenna" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:51
8."Reptile" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)4:56
9."A New Season" (Koppes)2:58
10."Hotel Womb" (Kilbey)5:40
Total length:46:07

Bonus 12" EP[edit]

  • Initial vinyl copies of the album came with a free bonus 12" EP[1] which contained:
1."Anna Miranda" (Kilbey, Jansson, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:04
2."Musk" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:54
3."Perfect Child" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)2:55
4."Frozen And Distant" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:58
5."Texas Moon" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)5:46

2005 EMI Australia remaster[edit]

  • This edition included a second disc which contained:
1."Texas Moon" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)5:46
2."Perfect Child" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)2:55
3."We Both Know Why You're Here" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)2:21
4."Frozen And Distant" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:58
5."Anna Miranda" (Kilbey, Jansson, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:04
6."Nose Dive" (Kilbey, Jansson, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:26
7."Afterlife (instrumental)" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)4:14
8."Under the Milky Way (acoustic)" (Kilbey, Jansson)4:08
9."Antenna (acoustic)" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:46
10."Spark (acoustic)" (Willson-Piper)3:28
11."Warm Spell" (Kilbey, Koppes, Willson-Piper)4:38
12."Musk" (Kilbey, Koppes, Ploog, Willson-Piper)3:54
  • This 2-CD version was re-released in 2010 in the U.S. by Second Motion Records as part of their 30th Anniversary Series.
  • All of these tracks, except "Warm Spell", "Musk" and the three acoustic versions, had appeared on the 1991 rarities compilation A Quick Smoke at Spot's: Archives 1986-1990.


Credited to:[1]

Additional musicians

Charted singles[edit]

Year Title Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 US Modern Rock US Mainstream Rock UK
1988 Under the Milky Way 24 - 2 90 Starfish




  1. ^ a b c d Holmgren, Magnus. "The Church". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  2. ^ Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.197.
  3. ^ Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.198.
  4. ^ a b Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.182.
  5. ^ Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and the Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.190-92.
  6. ^ Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.193.
  7. ^ Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.196.
  8. ^ Robert Dean Lurie. No Certainty Attached: Steve Kilbey and The Church. Portland OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2009, p.197.
  9. ^ O'Donnell, John; Creswell, Toby; Mathieson, Craig (October 2010). 100 Best Australian Albums. Prahran, Vic: Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74066-955-9.
  10. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Starfish – The Church". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  11. ^ Darling, Cary (28 February 1988). "Neo-Psychedelic Glory". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  12. ^ Fricke, David (21 April 1988). "The Church: Starfish". Rolling Stone (524). Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (24 May 1988). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  14. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum: The Church". Retrieved 23 July 2018.

External links[edit]