If you’re in need of a dose of accessibly weird Oklahoma psych-pop while you wait for the Flaming Lips’ record to come out, one need look no further than Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Dennis Coyne’s (nephew of Wayne Coyne) psychedelic pop outfit from Oklahoma. The group’s debut album The Birth is complete with high-pitched vocals, spacey musical effects, artwork akin to that of pre-Soft Bulletin Lips and support slots on the upcoming Lips tour—the comparisons are endless.
We’ll leave it there though and see what’s inside the box. The Birth is a10-track mixed bag of infectious upbeat rockers, and uninspiring slower numbers. “The Sea is on Fire” is a so-so opener, very psychedelic and with some cool effects, but the song drags. Track two, “New Heat” soars amidst pounding drumming and an epic chorus, and is near faultless. Track three, “Keep Score” feels like a modern Beach Boys ballad you’ve heard all too many times and the title track, which immediately follows, is a spacey experiment that doesn’t quite deliver.
Then something amazing happens—track five “Those Who Are From the Sun Return to the Sun” kicks in immediately as “The Birth” dies and Stardeath breathe new life into this very ambitious record. It’s a bass-driven, cymbal-clashing masterpiece and you really don’t know where it’s come from. This it followed by the funky single “I Can’t Get Away,” which is easily the album’s highlight.
I apologize for the boring chronological track description thus far but it was necessary to elaborate on the `mixed bag’ tag I’ve put on The Birth, as I found myself loving one track, hating the next, then loving the next. “Country Ballad” is pretty, and sort of likeable, “The March” shows Stardeath’s strengths yet again, all big beats and shredding guitar, and album closer “Smoking Pot Makes Me Not Want to Kill Myself” is full of very cheesy couplets and is irritating.
I’d like to applaud Stardeath and White Dwarfs for their ambition and for sounding most impressive when they rocked out, but there are far too many average ballads here that not even the Flaming Lips-inspired experimental effects can glaze over. Better luck next time but for now I’d rather wait for the real thing.