Starlings is a name of at least two bands:
A London, England, alternative rock band, formed in 1989 (aka Starlings). Released 5 eps and then 'valid' (album 1992) and 'too many dogs' (album 1994) on Warner
Brothers and acted as a vehicle for Chris Sheehan
Produced by Alan Moulder ( Foals, Richard Hawley, Arctic Monkeys, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Curve, Ride, White Lies, My Bloody Valentine, 2:54, The Vaccines, and Placebo, as well as with many American artists, including The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, The Smashing Pumpkins, Them Crooked Vultures, Death Cab for Cutie, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Puscifer, Blonde Redhead, How to Destroy Angels, Interpol, and Foo Fighters)
Played guitar for: Curve, Sisters of Mercy, Bob Dylan, Babylon Zoo, Gabriel, the mutton birds and soon to release new album.
Planet Painkiller review - The Express (Jan 28th 2000)
"If dark and sombre is your thing, if you're one of those people who think smiling is just so last century, you'll love this. Self-written, played and recorded, Chris Starling's debut LP is a beautiful thing. Largely acoustic songs, properly sung, properly played. And fantastically bleak. But, you know, there's a difference between bleak and hopeless. Follow bleak to its conclusion and you find a delicate hope. That's Planet Painkiller's secret."
Planet Painkiller review - The Independent (Jan 28th 2000)
"The first solo effort from the former frontman of The Starlings (no, they passed me by too) features an engaging blend of sly, allusive songs set to modern beats, one of the more interesting recent collusions of classic song structure with sampling technology. At his best - tracks such as 'Bobby Slaughter Saw The Light', a tale of failure and suicide delivered with a surprising lightness of tone - Starling brings the warmth and textural feel of Jim O'Rourke's Eurekato the vignette song style of someone like Shawn Mullins, although Starling's tablaux are less direct than that suggests, and more open to experiment. 'Saved Up', for instance, piles up cliches familiar from story narratives - blown cover, spilt beans, broken hearts, etc - but the cumulative effect is less of a specific plot than the general condition of story telling. The sultry 'Rawhide Baby', likewise, is little more than a series of erotic urges - 'love to please, love to squeeze, love to choke, love to stroke', etc - set to a slinky groove. Throughout, dark undercurrents stain the songs with menace and mystery, most impressively on 'Mouths & Brains', an acid blues in which a cuckold threatens to 'start forgetting what mouths and brains are for'." - Andy Gill
Planet Painkiller - The Observer (23rd Jan 2000)
"Starling was a teen star in his native New Zealand before moving to Britain to front The Starlings, a band who post-grunge sound found few takers. Burnt by a drug habit, Starling removed to the West Country, whence comes this reflective semi-acoustic solo set. It presents a bruised survivor's view of the world, mixing cameos of low life losers with aching appreciations of beauty and love, in which some shimmering production nicely sets off Starling's mellow vocals."
Planet Painkiller review - The Times (Jan 2000)
"Suffering from major label burn-out, Chris Starling, former frontman with Starlings, retreated to Devon where he wrote all the songs on this solo outing. Starlings released a brace of albums in the mid-Nineties that mined their Kiwi songwriter's scathing cynicism but, while Planet Painkiller finds its creator more relaxed, there's still time to contemplate mass murder (Charles Mantra Overboard) and self-loathing (Bonehead). There's a breezy swing to the best songs, with Starling's voice recalling Art Garfunkel, particularly on Saved Up, The Word and Clouds, whose lyrics reflect his former taste for that most addictive analgesic, heroin: "In the clouds I can sleep, all I want is to block out the past." Planet Painkiller sounds deceptively lightweight but read the label carefully." - Mike Pattenden
Planet Painkiller review - The Big Issue, No. 369, January 17-23, 2000
"The Starlings in case you (very likely) didn't know were around in the early Nineties and they were very dark. Now former Starlings frontman Chris Starling is going it alone. This a very solo, songwritery, modern pop record mixing rock, country, miscellaneous electronics and some other shit. The end results are always decent and sometimes excellent, with Chris' knack for bleakly amusing choruses really shining through."
Planet Painkiller review - NME (22nd January 2000)
"It's an old cliché but eyes really are the windows of the soul. They can tell tales more powerfully than any mouth, love and hate as fiercely as any gesture. So, after all this time, it's somehow fitting that Chris Starling has chosen a close-up photo of one of his eyes for the cover of his solo album. It's an invitation in, proof he's got nothing to hide now.
Chris, you see, has been around. A teen star in his native New Zealand, a touring musician with everyone from Sisters Of Mercy to, erm, Babylon Zoo and , most notably, the frontman of herion-fuelled angry young men, The Starlings. Their failure to set the world alight led Chris to disappear to Devon and, while figuring out what to do with his life and getting over the drugs, he came up with this.
'Planet Painkiller' is certainly a reflection of the circumstances from which it was born. Quiet and intensely intimate, the twisted fury of The Starlings has been replaced by a more subdued reflection. Chris is older and probably wiser but he still uses music to purge his demons. And, bizarrely, it's even more listenable now it doesn't feel quite so life-or-death.
That's largely thanks to his softly laid-back vocals. Somewhere between a mellow Lou Reed and a wistful Bob Dylan, Chris is unhurried and almost deadly in his softness. It comes as no surprise, then, to realise how many of these acoustic-based songs skirt around the subjects of suicide, murder and deception. 'Planet Painkiller' has clearly been inspired by a bleak vision of the world but, perhaps thanks to that time in Devon, it somehow ends up sounding surprisingly positive. In the charmingly simple 'Bobby Slaughter Saw The Light', for instance, suicide is embraced as a welcome escape. Elsewhere, through the gorgeous strains of harmonica in 'The Word' and the barely-there beauty of 'Tender', a glimmer of hope shines through.
In fact, Chris could no doubt manage without the music to help him get by now. But let's hope he doesn't want to." - Siobhan Grogan
Planet Painkiller review - Uncut (March 2000)
"Excellent comeback from ex-member of The Starlings and The Exponents. As the central force behind The Starlings, New Zealand-born Chris Sheehan greeted the start of the Nineties with two of the most vitriolic albums ever made about heroin and the music business. His re-emergence six years later (as Chris Starling) finally gives him the chance to reveal the lighter side of his character. Self-recorded in a Devon hideaway, "Planet Painkiller" is the best - and most contented record - he's ever made. The skeletal beats and battered guitar effects of "Rawhide Baby" and "The Word" see him offering a fractured, deftly melodic take on Odelay-era Beck. And the album as a whole offers a timely reminder of a man who's immense talent has yet to be fully recognised." - James Oldham
Planet Painkiller review - Q magazine (March 2000)
Striking homemade solo debut of cultish smack-rock Starlings' former frontman.
An exiled Kiwi now living in Devon, Chris Starling remains one of rock's more interesting peripheral figures. A teen star in his homeland, he relocated to London, acquired a heroin habit and then proceeded to sing about it in brutal detail on 1994's Too Many Dogs. After odd jobs with Belinda Carlisle and Sisters Of Mercy, he is currently making the best music of his life, the aptly named Tender even betraying stirrings of a softer kind. Released on his own label, the album is entirely his own work. A vanity piece, however, it isn't. Instead, try imagining Green Gartside fronting The Jesus & Mary Chain with some atmospheric programming and noir-ish undertow. Rawhide Baby, Charles Mantra Overboard and the banjo-riffing Mouths & Brains particularly hit the spot." - Peter Kane
Planet Painkiller review - Top (Feb 2000)
"Chris Starling is another miserablist - someone who is so low he doesn't even know what ground level looks like. Years earlier this New Zealander used to be in The Starlings, a magnificently brooding outlet whose two albums, '92's Valid and '94's Too Many Dogs, offered the kind of musical nightmares that would give Nick Cave the chills. Now solo, he's back on inimitably ghoulish form with Planet Painkiller, which he hysterically describes as "more optimistic, a happier record." Really? Well let's examine the evidence. A quick perusal of the lyric sheet throws up many an "optimistic" rhyming couplet, such as "Love to please, love to squeeze, love to choke", or "Bobby used the last of his powder to help get to sleep when the traffic got louder", and, from 'Charles Mantra Overboard', "Maybe I should've killed four or five hundred people, then I would've felt better." The melodies, meanwhile, aren't exactly Steps. They sound either funereal or in the process of shooting up. This is music from the dark side, made for people in touch with a dark side. It's the sound of the lights out and an irregular heartbeat and, albeit gloomy, it's rather ace." - Nick Duerden
Planet Painkiller review - Amazon.co.uk
"Chris was formerly of The Starlings, who produced two bleak 1990s classics in Valid and Too Many Dogs. Their commercial failure, however, seems to have dispatched Starling into a pit of depression. Planet Painkiller sees him emerge with an album which he himself regards as "optimistic", though there are some pretty dark clouds attached to its silver linings. "Rawhide Baby" sets the tone. Musically, we're in Marlboro Country–big, parched and reverberating ominously with Duane Eddy-style guitar chords and rattlesnake rhythms. The obsessive note struck by this lustful ditty is reprised on "Charles Mantra Overboard", which samples a would-be Manson-style murderer's rant against humanity and "Bonehead", whose lyrics simply repeat the title over and over, a misanthropic mantra. But then there's a real sense of redemption and cleansing on "Bobby Slaughter Saw The Light", "The Word" and especially "Clouds", whose levitating chords are reminiscent of the Byrds. This album takes you to down to some pitch-black places, but ultimately it manages to rescue you from them." - David Stubbs
Planet Painkiller review - audiostreet.com
"Chris Starling is a singer-songwriter formerly of indie angst-merchants The Starlings and has for the most of his adult playing life been writing and performing music. After achieving no major success with The Starlings, he continued to play with various other bands including Sisters of Mercy and Curve. This is his first solo album, which he recorded himself and put out on his own label.
Starling sings like a more restrained Lou Reed and Planet Painkiller is a melodic, evocative album reminiscent of Bob Dylan at his best. The recurrent themes running through Starling's music are loneliness, murder and suicide, but fear not, a certain lightness and positivity manages to shine through his gently-strummed, tuneful songs. Highlights include The Word and Tender - both gorgeous, lilting tunes which sound like a cross between Dylan and a gentler, less acerbic Oasis… An unexpected delight."
Planet Painkiller review - Music365.com (Feb 10th 2000)
Very decent set of songs from exiled Kiwi…
"Chris Starling (neé Sheehan) has lived a bit. A real live pop star in his native New Zealand back in the '80s (backed by some of the greatest masters of rhythm the Antipodes could boast), washed up and strung out in London a few years later, he was signed to Dave Stewart's 'kiss of death' label, Anxious, and apparently worked as a back-up musician to some distinguished one hit wonders. Strangely this is his first solo album, the label named after the postcode of his Devon retreat, where he now lives with his music and his guns. Not that that last fact should influence anyone's opinions.
Though 'Planet Painkiller', almost entirely played and produced by Starling, is in effect little more than a superior set of demos, the sound is surprisingly warm and effective. The loops and rotating riffs seem so comfortable, one has to wonder what he'd come up with given, say, an Oasis-level recording budget. The excellent 'Mouths and Brains' wobbles along like one time labelmates Curve with a banjo and a sense of fun, 'Saved Up' brings Latin lo-fi to the world and Starling cribs his lead guitar from the same Isley Brothers record as Edwyn Collins on 'Clouds'. And there's a tribute to a long forgotten star on the eloquent 'Bonehead' (lyrics consisting of the title twenty one times - very appropriate). Certainly a cut above the work of overrated fellow misanthrope Luke Haines, and leavened with humour and a serious understanding of tradition, this record deserves a wider hearing." - Steve Jelbert
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - translated from Avui, Rock & Classics (19/02/2003)
Tired of the comparisons with Dylan and Cohen whom all Folk artists meet with, Chris Starling has titled his new album Sounds Like Chris Starling. The ex-Starlings, Babylon Zoo and Sisters of Mercy guitarist returns with riffs and sweet pop/folk and neo-psychadelia that would be the envy of America's Jack Drag. The album's dark viewpoints would perfectly soundtrack road movies, particularly Roadhide Baby, that brings to mind the film Lost Highway. It speaks of the emotions when undertaking an inner trip in search of what's inside. Melodies of serenity contrast with restless shades for an album more intuitive than expressive. - A.R.G.
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - translated from Satelitepop.com (Feb 2003)
New from Popchild.com is this release from Chris Starling, a New Zealander now settled in Spain, who, after participating in various projects (including collaborations with Sisters of Mercy, Babylon Zoo and his own group The Starlings) now presents his second solo album, following "Planet Painkiller". We did not need many listens to notice that Chris prefers delicate pop, recalling the legacy left by the likes of
Nick Drake. The atmosphere of Galaxie 500 and the first Jesus & Mary Chain album is combined with the psychadelic air that serves Jason Pearce so well, but leaving aside comparisons, Chris's work warrants attention by itself. - Alfonso Méndez
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - translated from Go Magazine (Feb 2003)
Life can bring strange changes in direction. In his youth, New Zealander Chris Sheehan played guitar in Dance Exponents, a group that at the time prevailed in its mother country. When he left the band, he emigrated to Los Angeles; then soon after settled in London, where he recorded an EP for Rough Trade under the name The Starlings. As he became addicted to heroin, he continued to play music with artists as diverse as Babylon Zoo and Sisters of Mercy; meanwhile solo, he continued composing and released two albums, "Planet Painkiller" and "Sounds Like…", the latter having been recently released by Barcelona's Popchild Records. And it is a wonder of pop candy, narcotic and subtly contagious. Between Elliot Smith and The Jesus & Mary Chain, fundamentally acoustic but with strategic use of the multiplication of vocal tracks as well as keyboards, "Sounds Like" contains twelve fearless, beautiful songs. - Gloria González
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - translated from Moonpalece (Feb 2003)
A lot of people will remember Jesus & Mary Chain's acclaimed and electric "Stoned & Dethroned", among them Chris Starling. And it is that feeling that begins "Sounds Chris Starling" - the melancholic 'Wendy May', in which you realise you've heard this formula before, and not just in the previously mentioned record by the Reid Brothers. Chris Starling is like that friend who invites you to his house to listen to the songs - as if he was singing only for you. The acoustic gentleness is confounded only by "Rawhide Baby", a song that reminds us this person has a 'dark' past. These are delicate, simple but really effective songs which, by the second listen, are firmly planted in your head. The 'folk' air is sometimes as if he's singing round a campfire. Maybe nobody will remembers him in a few months, life can be unfair, but today Chris Starling has accompanied me with these songs and has made my day just a little bit more bearable, which surely makes them friends - Juanra
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - translated from Desorden.net (4th Feb 2003)
Popchild Records is born. And the first release is from Chris Starling, a New Zealander now settled down in Spain who, in the 90s, fronted The Starlings, who received numerous comparisons to The Jesus & Mary Chain. He released his first solo album, "Planet Painkiller", two years ago, to critical acclaim which compared him with Dylan, Nick Drake or Nick Cave. His new release "Sounds Like…", was recorded and produced by Starling himself. Out of the three songwriters mentioned, Drake's influence is most apparent, but the influence of the other two can certainly be heard in the harmonica of "The Word" or the darker moments of "Rawhide Baby". The final result is the closest yet idea of what would happen if the Jesus & Mary Chain became enamored with the "New Acoustic Movement" or, sometimes, to a Jason Pearce lacking orchestal support. "Sounds Like Chris Starling" is not the eighth wonder, but is at least more than a recommendable option in the not always easy task of choosing that CD to put on your stereo. - Carlos Revillo
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - Irish Times (11/07/2002)
A New Zealander who lives in Spain, Starling's debut solo album, Planet Painkiller, was one of 2000's best. Sounds Like… is quieter and more introspective, but no less great. The title comes from his being tired of comparisons to Dylan, Cohen, Cave etc. These are valid starting points, but he is much more than a hotchpotch of bit-parts. Lost And Found could be a lost Simon & Garfunkel classic. Took A Trip could be Nick Cave doing a Johnny Cash song on a David Lynch road-movie sound track. Bar In A Boat is talking-blues updated for the new millennium, with a drum-machine counterpoint to acoustic picking. Only available through his website, Sounds Like… is good enough to make luddites join the digital age. - Pádraig Collins
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - Teletext (22/03/2002)
The words "only available on his website" are usually cause for alarm, as is - shoot us for being superficial - Starling's twee name. If this second album could hardly be described as raucous, don't go assuming the standard Nick Drake/Jeff Buckley comparisons come into play. Rather, Starling's emaciated, hushed voice brings to mind Jason Pierce stripped of Spiritualized's orchestra. Growing lovelier by the listen, the place to go is: www.starlings.com - John Earls
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - Mojo (April 2002)
Second solo album from former Starlings frontman
Too many Dogs, the second album from The Starlings, was once (favourably) described as "one of the most cynical, misanthropic and downright nasty albums ever recorded". Since their disintegration in the mid-'90s, Chris Starling seems to have mellowed, cast into self-imposed seclusion in North Devon. Sounds Like… (entirely recorded, mixed and manufactured by Starling himself) is the sound of lonely souls in transit, the point where the new millennial angst of electronic heads like Her Space Holiday meets the vulnerability of quietened '60s troubadours like Argent and Cohen: stripped-back, poetic, faded snapshots. The mood is chilled, introspective. Still She Can't bewails how "old flames flicker and die", Lost And Found talks of "burning all my bridges". An album for slightly aged romantics. - Jerry Thackray
Sounds Like Chris Starling review - NME (23/03/02)
Narcotic acoustic balladry
The rock public are still suckers for heroin chic. But what tends to get forgotten is that for every rakish iconoclast like Iggy Pop, there's a bunch of despondent failures with a flop album and a needle habit to their names. Chris Starling, former frontman with '90s Mary Chain types The Starlings, sits in the latter category. But that shouldn't place this record - self-recorded and produced, and only available from the artist's starlings.com website - in the Tutting Sympathy pile. Like Shack's 'HMS Fable' LP, 'Sounds Like…' is a record of redemption through simplicity. Eight tracks of baleful strumming, quietly urgent percussion and black, sometimes painful lyrics, this is unlikely to be destined for more than a core audience - unless, of course, you investigate and change all that. - Noel Gardner
Bobby Slaughter Saw The Light review - The Guardian (27/05/00)
"Former Starlings frontman who used to make music so unlistenably dark and unsettling it was akin to being handcuffed and locked inside a cow. Has since discovered a sense of humour and a lightness of touch. Made cracking solo debut (Planet Painkiller) earlier this year. From which this little beauty is plucked. A deceptively simple pop song that tells of everyday failure with a mischievous twinkle in its mincers. Calls to mind the image of Nick Cave giving Paul Simon a piggy-back ride in the middle of an early Woody Allen comedy. Incongruously great." - Jon Wilde
A Sheffield, UK, electronic pop / Balearic beat quartet, formed in 2009. They are produced by psych producer Richard Norris (of The Grid, Time & Space Machine and Beyond The Wizards Sleeve).
Sites: Discogs, MusicBrainz, YouTube, SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook and StarlingsMusic.co.UK (official).
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