Music Reviews

posted: June 26, 2009

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Stardeath and White Dwarfs: The Birth The Birth

Stardeath and White Dwarfs: The Birth

Hang around with the Flaming Lips for a while and things are bound to get weird. And yes, it’s also quite likely that some of the Oklahoma group’s crazed genius and helium energy might rub off as well. This is exactly what happened to Stardeath and White Dwarfs, an experimental quartet that for the past few years served as the Lips’ road crew. Oh, imagine the stories these gents could tell. But those campfire tales will be for another day.

On The Birth, a full-length debut that follows on the heels of a 2005 EP and several singles (including a collaboration with the Lips on a cover of Madonna’s “Borderline”) Stardeath and Co. stick to reflecting and reinterpreting a multitude trippy sounds they’ve absorbed on the road. Laidback, playful, and carefree, The Birth is at its core an old-fashioned psychedelic album that has no illusions of breaking ground or following any set pattern.

As such, the group wears its personal beliefs on its sleeves. With song titles indicative of the narrative content, tunes such as the speed-freaked “The Sea Is on Fire,” acoustic-tinged “Age of the Freak,” and mellowed-out “Smoking Pot Makes Me Not Want to Kill Myself” are as ruminative and deep as the lyrics get. This is a record is made for summertime jaunts with friends, backyard parties, and, well, certain chemical diversions. Want high-concept art? Look elsewhere, please.

Musically, the band’s hazy guitar melodies, fuzz-toned marches, trippy atmospherics, and layered harmonies generously borrow-not surprisingly-from their more successful Oklahoma brethren. And how could it not? Vocalist Dennis Coyne is even the nephew of Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. Yet Stardeath is looser, weirder, and funkier than the modern Lips, coming across with the zest of kids that recently discovered acid-tinged rock and folk albums in their parents’ record collection, dove into the new worlds of sound, and aren’t yet ready to come up for air. No, a requisite stage light show doesn’t come with the album. But the band’s frayed pop and burbling kraut rock convey the wild spectrum of colors listeners can imagine sparking in their mind’s eye.

Sonically, the production emphasizes texture and mood. No huge dynamics here, but the luscious midrange goes down easy and makes for a great headphone experience-particularly when heard on vinyl.

–Bob Gendron