Starflyer 59’s self-titled debut, aka Silver (due to its monochromatic cover), was one of those albums. Along with releases from Mortal, The Prayer Chain, and The Violet Burning, Silver forever changed my view of Christian music. Here was music made by devout Christians that was just as good, inventive, intense, and noteworthy as anything in the secular arena.
But when Starflyer 59 released their second self-titled album, aka Gold (again, due to its monochromatic cover), I took a while to warm up to it. I wasn’t disappointed per se, but I was expecting more My Bloody Valentine-esque walls of noise. Those were present, but I also heard guitar riffs and melodies that owed more to The Beach Boys than Kevin Shields, and compared to Silver’s lush production, Gold sounded flat, particularly in the drums. (I later learned this was a deliberate aesthetic choice by bandleader Jason Martin, who wanted to capture a ’70s rock sound.)
But grow on me it did because at the time, Gold seemed to be about one thing: girls. Specifically, girls that Martin couldn’t be with or girls who had left for whatever reason and broken his heart. In any case, the album felt like one long ode to broken relationships and unrequited love. Sure, Gold opens with “A Housewife Love Song,” and all seems well and nicely domestic. But two songs later, Martin’s singing “When You Feel Miserable.” And later, there’s “You’re Mean,” “Messed Up Over You,” and “When You Feel The Mess.” Not exactly the most uplifting material, based on song titles alone.
Jason Martin has never been the most poetic lyricist, but lyrics like “Tell it long, so true, so sweetly to me/So long, so blue, completely over you/But now I’m messed up over you” prove plenty profound when backed by tons of reverb and distortion. And then there’s “Indiana,” which finds Martin imploring “Stay, these days and you will find/All the hurting here will die/Be better when you’re mine” against an equally soulful riff. (Note: If you were a girl who received a mix tape from me some time in the mid-to-late ‘90s, then you probably heard this song.)
Indeed, Gold features some of Martin’s mopiest, and therefore, most soulful songwriting ever, particularly on the one-two punch of “Messed Up Over You” and “When You Feel The Mess.” (Oh, and the epically downbeat “Next Time Around” on Gold’s companion Le Vainqueur EP.) And again, let me reiterate that this soulfulness isn’t about anything “spiritual” per se, but rather, all about heartache. Heartache so bad, in fact, that Gold’s liner notes needed to include a reference to Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
This may all seem trivial, but realize that in 1995, I was a painfully awkward, hormone-addled, romantic train-wreck just entering college. I had countless crushes on girls who never knew because I was too shy and awkward to tell them. And a part of me felt guilty for feeling that heartache because it seemed so… un-Christian and worldly. As a good youth group kid, my heart and mind should’ve been on “Godly” things, not the latest girl to tie my heart up in knots.
But then along comes a band who, in the liner notes to every album, gives praise to Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, and their new album is as mopey as can be, filled with as much unrequited love and broken hearts as it was guitar reverb and distortion (which is to say, an awful lot). In a strange way, it was liberating to know that other Christian fellas felt the same way about those seemingly “trivial” things, and weren’t afraid to sing about it — or play a blistering, distortion-laced guitar solo because of it.
That was two decades ago. Both Martin and I are now married, with our own families. I’m sure he looks back on that time with some embarrassment; I certainly do. I’ve since learned that Gold’s lyrics weren’t quite as girl-centric as I once thought they were, but even so, I listen to Gold and I remember the awkward kid I was — and still am, at times. I remember the girls, and laugh at how silly my moping was, while realizing I can be just as awkward now in my adult relationships. And heartache is something I will always experience this side of eternity. But Gold is still here, and with its distorted surf riffs, endless amounts of reverb, and painfully hushed vocals, it helps ease the pain. Or at least helps the moping go a bit more smoothly.
This entry was originally published on Chrindie ’95 on .