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  Old 
Artist: Starflyer 59
Label: Tooth & Nail
Length: 10 tracks, 39:06

After seven full-lengths, six EPs, two 7"s, and a double-disc collection, it's pretty safe to say that in the realm of music, Jason Martin, lead singer/ guitarist/ songwriter for Starflyer 59, is a genius. If all of his previous work was not proof enough, Old should remove all doubt.

Old finds Martin with bassist Jeff Cloud and drummer Frank Lenz making the Starflyer 59 record that was always destined to be made. Granted, Starflyer has never made a bad album, but never before have they found themselves fitting into as comfortable of a musical groove as they do on Old. Those who found themselves bored with the slow, crooning sounds of Leave Here a Strange_ need to jump back on the Starflyer 59 boat. Those who loved the experimental nature of Stranger will be hard-pressed
not to dig this one even more.

Jason Martin doesn't necessarily use any particular trick in crafting these songs. He just knows how to write catchy songs that make a grand-sized imprint in your head. The songs are guitar-filled to be sure, but are as far as possible from what is typically found on the radio. The closest comparison within Starflyer's own music would be to the Fashion Focus album, but that's only if you took the best songs and made an album full of them.

"Underneath" sets the pace of the music with a guitar sound that shows up again and again throughout the entire album, like an old friend that comes to visit every day. Once the next songs "Major Awards" and "Loved Ones" sink their way into your ears, you'll be hooked. And we haven't even gotten to the very best songs yet. The upbeat highlight comes in the form of "New Wife, New Life". This song is then followed up with the slow, beautifully meaningful title cut "Old": "The look in your eyes/ You look twice your age/ You've been almost through forever/ Was this a training ground/ They all passed us by/ I wish they'd look at me before/ I'm the one who cried/ Or have you noticed that we're all getting old/ We're all getting old." The tone of this song underlies the whole album, though it lies deep below the surface.

This is the kind of CD that you can take and listen to anywhere. In your room, at the beach, in the car, in the office, it doesn't matter. This is music that calls out to be played wherever you are. And once you've heard Old, you won't be able to keep it from spinning. 

Trae Cadenhead


 
 

Trae Cadenhead is a student at Union University. He is pursuing a Digital Media Studies major with a Film Studies minor and plans to become involved in film making following school. Trae also has an enormous interest in music. Along with writing for the Tollbooth, Trae maintains Loconotion (loconotion.surfhere.net), a digital archive of his thoughts on music and movies as well as a gallery of the art and video work he is doing.

Starflyer 59 has been around for quite some time with a loyal fan base who have been getting increasingly harder to identify. Despite hearing numerous projects I am still unimpressed with the output. The Fashion Focus seemed aimless. Easy Come Easy Go, managed to recap an anthology of six years of Jason Martin’s work into a collection which was difficult to swallow, mostly because it all sounds the same and is gloomy. Leave Here a Stranger seemed to evoke some sort of Shoegazer _Pet Sounds_ ethos, which had some draw, but didn’t offer much in the way of good songwriting, so ultimately fell flat. Two years later Jason Martin finally feels confident enough to output at least an EP worth of material and hasn’t seemed to pave much new ground.

The album kicks off with “Underneath” and sounds very similar to something which would come off of Leave Here a Stranger, just kicked up a notch. The opening to the humorously titled, “New Wife, New Life” has an opening which seems to mimic the introduction to Wilco’s “War on War,” and seems promising but gets very tired. The bouncy guitar riff which is repeated throughout the song would have been nice, but it’s just not a good enough riff to build the song around. The title track, “Old” seems to grab from the bottom of the barrel, giving nothing really substantive to put your ears around. The emotion it gets closest to evoking is that of depression, but fails to really even portray that fully. I have to admit that the closing “First Heart Attack” has some creativity, but at this point you’re just kind of fed up with Jason Martin’s voice. Some voices like Bill Mallonee, Bob Dylan, or Lucinda Williams, are good in a “that’s not what a good voice is supposed to sound like way”, which is tempting to ascribe to Martin, but ultimately it just doesn’t have much draw. 

Ultimately Old starts to sound like its title suggests. The few creative bones which Martin has in his body seemed to drown out in an uninspiring voice and less than stellar songwriting. My hope is that Starflyer will try and develop a little more talent as they began to show back in their most impressive album Everybody Makes Mistakes. Anyone wanting to try out this band should probably start there. If you’re a Starflyer 59 fan already, if you like their other stuff ,then maybe you’ll have better luck with Old than I did. 

Matt Kilgore (5/26/03)

A decade into his career, Jason Martin keeps it fresh by paradoxically mining the past.  2001’s Leave Here a Stranger explored a working musician’s life through a collage of Pet Sounds-inspired production techniques. Now, songs like "New Wife, New Life" and "First Heart Attack" propel Martin’s imagination into the future while churning, chunky rhythm guitars dig into classic ''70's rock sounds.  There’s a bit of Gary Glitter’s "Rock and Roll" in "Underneath," and Bad Company peeks through elsewhere.  It’s a far cry from the Martin's My Bloody Valentine fixation evinced on Silver and Gold, certainly.  

Mellotron whiz Richard Swift lifts keyboard tones from the Wings and ELO catalogues, and borrows Lennon’s "Imagine" piano for "Old."  Lassie Foundation drummer Frank Lenz joins steadfast SF59 bassist Jeff Cloud in the current rhythm section.  "There’s no big time coming ... no major awards?  Well, that’s not fair," Martin sings slyly in "Major Awards," furthering his everyday-Joe, working-stiff musician themes.  

Jeff Elbel 10/14/2003
 

   
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