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RECORD RACK

**** Great Balls of Fire *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : Neo-Psychedelic Glory

February 28, 1988|CARY DARLING

*** THE CHURCH. "Starfish." Arista. The pairing of Australia's opaque, moody Church with the straight-ahead American production team of Greg Ladanyi and Waddy Wachtel seems like a desperate attempt by the band to get a hit after years of struggling. Yet, surprisingly, there's no sense of compromise of "Starfish." The dense, shimmering, exquisite guitar pop that has built the quartet a sturdy cult following is here in all its neo-psychedelic glory. The only obvious hint of their time spent in the U.S. is the anti-L.A. bias of "North, South, East and West." But even diehard Angelenos could be swayed by the ringing, propulsive "Reptile" or the hushed, quietly magnificent "Under the Milky Way," which is marred only by a misplaced, distorted guitar solo. The Church probably won't receive that big hit this time around--singer Steve Kilbey's vocals are still too deep and brooding for mass acceptance--but that doesn't lessen this album's fragile beauty.

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