94. Starflyer 59: Gold

(Tooth & Nail, 1995)

For all the bands that broke onto the Christian scene, made an album or two than faded into obscurity, Starflyer 59 defied the odds. To this day, I’m blown away by the vast catalogue of Sf59 releases (12 studio albums, and #13 in the works! (#13 is already out!)), a band that brought a credible brand of shoegaze pop to those who grew up ingesting CCM.

Silver and Gold were the first two records released by the band in the mid-’90s, and I can’t remember which one I owned first. They both rock. You can’t go wrong with Silver, which had the awesome song called Sled on it. And Gold was equally as good, and had arguably the greatest Sf59 song ever recorded. Duel Overhead Cam is mind-blowing. The mix of super-subdued and super-heavy guitar is gorgeous. Throw in some screeching, feedback induced tones and the results are beautiful. The gentle, almost whispered vocals (well actually they are whispered mid-way through the song) add to the audio awesomeness.

And that’s why 1995’s Gold gets the edge, albeit slightly, over Silver. However, there wasn’t much of a departure from past precedent on either release. As critics argue,  Sf59’s music was anything but revolutionary. In fact, it borrowed outright from the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and other bands who made so-called Noise Pop.

But I think it would be a mistake to ignore the contributions Sf59 made to the genre, especially the band’s place in the context of Christian rock. For sure, Sf59 lived on the fringes of popularity, even in Christian circles, because their sound generally lacked commercial appeal. That, however, only adds to the allure of the music.

However, I can get why people wouldn’t like Sf59. Take Gold’s third track, When You Feel Miserable, which clocks in at just over five minutes – all of which are dominated by the drone of Jason Martin’s guitar. Oh, there’s some beautiful melody in there, but it’s easy to miss if the monotony of the distortion-drenched chords gets to you. The album is not all drone, though. When You Feel the Mess has a nice, gentle tone with wonderful, soft vocals. Martin does throw in some wailing guitar leads three minutes into the song, which takes it’s sweet, lazy time drawing to a close at 6:17. Yup, there’s a lot of tape with nothing really happening, other than some great textural soundscapes.

There is something generally depressing tone-wise about the album, which is perhaps expected since we’re talking shoegaze-music. But Gold doesn’t leave you feeling empty, rather, enriched from an ethereal music expression of wonderful, well-made Nineties noise pop. – CK

TRACK LISTING:

  1. A Housewife Song (4:12)
  2. Duel Overhead Cam (4:38)
  3. When You Feel Miserable (5:07)
  4. You’re Mean (2:04)
  5. Stop Wasting Your Whole Life/Messed Up and Down (5:03)
  6. Messed Up Over You (6:44)
  7. When You Feel the Mess (6:16)
  8. Somewhere When Your Heart Glowed The Hope (4:43)
  9. Indiana (4:26)
  10. Do You Ever Feel That Way (2:15)
  11. One Shot Juanita (4:39)
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