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Album Review

Stardeath & White Dwarfs' reputation — and public profile — certainly isn't hurt at all by the fact that there's the family connection to the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, given his nephew Dennis fronts the band. (To their further collective credit, even the artwork of The Birth makes the connection clear, down to font choices and color schemes.) This acknowledged, does The Birth work as an engaging listen in its own right instead of the band being, say, 2009's version of the Unbelievable Truth? Yes and no — there's something engagingly careening about The Birth at its best, arguably even more so than what Coyne's uncle does these days. Songs like "The Sea Is on Fire" and "The Age of the Freak" have more scuzzed-out edges to them, for instance. The flipside is that it's essentially one of any number of endless albums happily plundering psychedelic fuzz, early prog mysticism, and easy flowing late-'60s sunshine pop that have been created and released over the years, something that puts together all the parts with skill and evident love but doesn't seek to do much in the way of anything remarkably new; like catnip for those already fully inclined to seek out what's there. At points there are hints of just where an eventual breakthrough might come for them — "New Heat" has something of a big and beautiful shimmer underneath the intentional production murk and echo, while the Pink Floyd-goes-funk break on "Those Who Are from the Sun Return to the Sun" is a nice touch — but even so, it underscores that the band's own identity is yet to be truly forged in full. Still, points for ending the album on a song called "Smoking Pot Makes Me Not Want to Kill Myself."

The Birth, Stardeath and White Dwarfs
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