I first heard Starflyer 59 the summer before my freshmen year in college. I read a review of Silver in CCM magazine, comparing it to My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver. As soon as I listened to it, I knew everything the reviewer had said was true, and then some. Ever since, I have been hooked on this often talked about brainchild of Jason Martin.
Martin has had an interesting evolution, musically. Along with brother Ronnie Martin (Joy Electric), he was in Dance House Children, one of the best synth-pop bands to ever grace Christendom. He left to form Starflyer 59, and released the Silver album on Tooth and Nail, a record that brought words like “noise-pop,” “shoegazer,” and “dreampop” to Christian music. So what does he do for Gold? He decides to record a straight out rock-and-roll album.
While Martin claims that this album was influenced by bands like Journey, Black Sabbath, and the Beach Boys, I hear influences such as Sonic Youth (“Duel Overhead Cam”), Jesus and Mary Chain (“When You Feel Miserable”), and even the Boo Radleys (“Somewhere When Your Heart Glowed The Hope,” “Do You Ever Feel That Way”). Gone are the swirling layers of guitars, full of effects and processing. The only remnant of Silver is Martin’s laidback whispering vocals. Everything else is different, making an album all the more deeper and infectious.
This album moves towards much more diverse, and satisfying sounds. “You’re Mean” has the surf guitar thing down, with killer vocal harmonies. “Indiana” sounds like it should be played at some lounge, with style and pizzaz. But the true strength of this album are the ballads “Messed Up Over You” and “When You Feel The Mess.” Besides the obvious similarity in titles, these heartwrenching 6-minute pieces just drip with reverb and melancholia. While the lyrics are pretty basic — they’re about girls — it’s Martin’s musicianship that stands out. Both songs feature some of the coolest solos I’ve ever heard. Martin is a master at realizing when to play solos and how hard to play them. Never sounding gaudy and pretentious, Martin’s delivery makes these songs all the more potent.
However, Martin also explores the pop side of music with equal fervor and talent. “Somewhere When Your Heart Glowed The Hope” and “Do You Ever Feel That Way” would soar up the charts in a perfect world. Killer hooks and cool harmonies dominate these songs, while still conveying a bittersweet sense about them.
Suffice it to say, Gold was one of the best Christian releases of 1995. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who’s planning on starting a band needs to hear this album. Study it, dissect it, and learn from a master how to write good songs. Martin had a lot to follow after Silver but instead of trying to play the same old formula in a new way, he just tried something new, unlike many of the bands that permeate Christian music. Kudoes to Martin, and here’s looking towards Americana.