The Birth

Stardeath And White Dwarfs

Warner Brothers, 2009

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Don’t think about the Flaming Lips.

I know. You probably weren’t. But when I mention the name Dennis Coyne, you will immediately think of his uncle Wayne, frontman for the Lips. You will then learn that these guys opened for the Lips on tour and wonder how they could manage to distance themselves as anything other than Lips-lite.

The younger Coyne definitely draws on the sound and sensibility of his uncle’s band here – which is inevitable – but slows down the tempo and makes this a spacier, prog rock and left-field pop outing that draws from our favorite bands of the ‘70s without really transcending them.

This is not unusual for a debut, of course, and it’s evident from The Birth that this band has a bright future. The sunny “Keep Score” blends mid-period Beach Boys and early career post-Syd Pink Floyd into a laconic pop haze, while “The Birth” has a similar approach but with a spacier into, guitar crunch and then a breakdown into random effects and jamming; this leads into the fantastic “Those Who Are From The Sun Return To The Sun,” which features some killer drum work as well and the most nimble bass riffs of the year. That song and the second half of “The Birth” reminds the listener a bit of Floyd’s “On The Run,” which never really stood on its own as a song but worked as an entertaining, transitional set piece. With a little development, the song could have been a modern prog masterpiece, but instead it’s just a fun studio jam.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It leads into the off-kilter groove of “I Can’t Get Away,” which would be a pretty good single, and the reverb-laden acoustic playing of “The Age Of The Freak,” a pretty standard psych-prog-pop song that succeeds because of the electric power chord overlay that comes in at the right time with a dramatic flourish, sometimes repeating the same note once, sometimes moving up half a note, creating an unsettling feeling on top of the bliss.

“Country Ballad” also draws from the early Floydian playbook, perhaps with a bit of Yes and Supertramp tossed in, while “The March” does just what its title says, moving forward with a gallop both swinging and leaden. The piece is dense and feels a lot longer than its two and a half minutes, which is a good thing, I guess.

One would hope this is all leading to a killer prog rock finale, especially given the strident “The March,” but instead things peter out with a lovely acoustic ballad called “Smoking Pot Makes Me Not Want To Kill Myself.” That cheeky humor and the relatively slight lyrics of the disc give this an air of smart-assery, of a bunch of dudes hanging out, getting high and playing their uncle’s favorite records. Because of the talent here, they are able to pull a few songs together here and a few sketches of great songs together there, giving this the feeling of an unfinished record indebted to its influences.

But as prog rock debuts go, it’s good to hear one that’s so unassuming and laidback, and in just the right light a certain song will hit at a certain time and warrant the “repeat” button. This inconsistency makes the whole of The Birth frustrating, because its best moments make you want to come back for more, but those moments only comprise about half the music.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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