Starflyer 59 – Dial M
Tooth and Nail – Oct. 28, 2008
By Matthew Ralph
It’s hard for me to not get nostalgic listening to Starflyer 59. The first review I ever wrote for Tangzine was of the band’s second release – the She’s The Queen EP – 14 years ago. Since then, Jason “Starflyer 59” Martin has released 10 full-length albums, his latest dropping a few weeks ago.
While the material isn’t as ear-piercingly loud, the droning is kept to a minimum and Martin’s lyrics are much easier to decipher, listening to him name drop Johnny Marr and a Smiths song does little to prevent this trip down memory lane to a time when writing music reviews and discovering new bands wasn’t quite as painful or overwhelming as it is now.
As dorky as it sounds, Starflyer 59 inspired me to scrawl my first lame record review and all these years later Martin is still churning out material for me to write about. Though his live shows have always underwhelmed, his ability to produce album after album of worthwhile material is almost boringly predictable. Music tastes changes and fads come and go, but the slightly tweaked over time formula continues to fit. Still, Dial M isn’t so much a throwback to the mid-’90s as it is an album that throws aging early adopters like me back to the days when a Tooth and Nail RIYL if you like the Pixies and Jesus and Mary Chain poster meant something.
“I Love You Like The Little Bird” only adds to the nostalgia for me with its soothing lullaby-esque style and lines about kids wanting a faster beat and his own kids needing to eat. It’s a bittersweet song that shows both the progression and the maturation of an artist who has been plugging away at something he started as a much younger man even as the world has changed so rapidly around him.
The record doesn’t stay locked in this mode throughout. Songs like “Automatic” and “Altercation” carry the kind of punchy beat and sassy vocals that made the last two Starflyer 59 records and the Brothers Martin project Jason and his Joy Electric brother Ronnie released earlier this year as equally attractive.
Yet, if there’s one song that defines this chapter in the Starflyer 59 novel, it’s “Minor Keys,” a catchy song that is made even more memorable by the aforementioned reference to the song “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” It’s one of those lines that sticks and doesn’t let go, a reference that unlike an odd name-dropping of Henry Kissinger in “Automatic,” makes perfect sense in the bigger picture of an album and a band that has produced a coterie of devoted fans who can’t help but wax nostalgic whenever SF59 shows up on the iPod shuffle.