If one were to chart the musical territory that Starflyer 59 has crossed since releasing Silver in 1994, one would have a very interesting map. With Silver they dived headfirst into the (by then) waning shoegazer scene. Think thick walls of guitar and breathy vocals straight off of a My Bloody Valentine album mixed with the dream-rock of Catherine Wheel and Swervedriver. Gold saw Jason Martin and Co. working with a more laid-back, loungier side while interspersed with surf and Jesus and Mary Chain-style rock. Americana saw Jason Martin reveal his love for classic rock, with huge swaggering guitar solos and a stronger sense of melody.
Now it’s time for The Fashion Focus, an album that might leave many Starflyer fans scratching their head, although true fans will end up loving it. In some ways, this album is an amalgamation of everything that Martin has done before. It’s an approach that, at times, seems very disparate and uneven, but rather enjoyable.
Never before has Martin written such accessible songs. Nearly every song is full of starry-eyed hooks and melodies. Just check out the Boo Radley’s influence on “A Holiday Song” or the toe-tapping “Card Games And Old Friends.” “All The Time” has Martin indulging in his love with surf music to the extreme, albeit in a restrained fashion. Fans of Americana and it’s huge rock sound will love “The Birthrite” (with it’s huge bass and aggressive sound) and “Too Much Fun” (a 7 minute dream for air guitar afficionados). Even “Shut Your Mouth,” which features Michael Knott on backing vocals, has a slight touch, with it’s “Doors”-like keyboards.
However, Martin is still a melancholy man. “We’re The Ordinary” and “Fell In Love At 22” are simply beautiful in their simplicity. Starflyer’s sad songs are successful because of their humility. We don’t hear Martin making sweeping existential statements or whining about angst. That’s why I can listen to his sad songs over and over and not feel like I’m listening to someone whining about their life.
The Fashion Focus is another success for Jason Martin. Starflyer is one of those rare bands that continues to evolve, not in response to trends and fashions, but simply in response to what sounds good.