Wayne Coyne and his Flaming Lips cohorts cast a long shadow, one that Stardeath and White Dwarfs probably wont ever fully escape.
The comparisons and bar-trivia fact that frontman Dennis Coyne is Waynes nephew would feel superfluous if it wasnt totally necessary, because Dennis is the nephew of weirdo-indie rocks brightest luminary. The two groups collaborate frequently (remakes of Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon and King Crimsons In the Court of the Crimson King), drummer Matt Duckworth is now touring with both bands and Stardeaths sound is cut from the same acid-soaked washcloth that the Lips practically own the textile factory for at this point.
To tell Stardeaths tale without mentioning all those ties to The Flaming Lips would be like The Karate Kid without Mr. Miyagi. But whats more important is the fact that the rise of Oklahoma Citys second most famous psychedelic pop band is not just alternative music nepotism. With Wastoid, the long-awaited followup to 2009s The Birth, the four-piece is proving to be more than the Igor to Wayne and companys Dr. Frankenstein. While they will always share the same penchant for graspable experimentation, Stardeath is plotting its own space-rock trials and executing them nicely, too.
Its important to have a rope back down to Earth with such sonically ambitious excursions, and Dennis, Duckworth, bassist Casey Joseph and guitarist Ford Chastain have found their essential sense of gravity in funk and groovy, 70s-divined bass lines. That wasnt absent from The Birth, but its exponentially more pronounced in the Parliament-on-LSD title track and Sleeping Pills and Ginger Ale.
Wastoid alternates between nasty-sexy and nasty-abrasive, a sprinkle-coated blood-and-guts affair that delights with shiny gems and spooky industrial thuds alike. Theres plenty of ear-bleeding noise in The Chrome Children, Birds of War and Hate Me Tomorrow clocked in before a true Sea Change moment with soul-purring closer Surprised.
Thats all folded together in leadoff single Frequency, traversing to the top of a Play-Doh sludge mountain just in time to catch the sun bleeding into the night.
Stardeath is in its peak form in those flashes, plucking a gold nugget out of the River Styx. The band does it again in The Screaming (featuring you guessed it The Flaming Lips), but the more straight-ahead, traditionally poppy twosome Luminous Veil and Guess Ill Be Okay is just as winning.
A rare album that gets its momentum in the back nine instead of losing it, Wastoid overcomes a comparatively slow start with a rush of impressive songwriting toward its end. It lacks a song as singularly effective as The Births New Heat, but the sophomore effort is a fully baked thought, and even its most starkly contrasting offerings are bound together.
Theres a gentle, throbbing loop that its first and last songs are built on, and it pulses throughout like the albums very own irregular heartbeat which is fitting, because it feels like a new monster has just come alive.