Partners - Review for Wicked Branches:
July 29, 2005
By Ron Rollins
Grade: A-, but we might give an A in a few weeks after more listening.
Daystar, the band's debut, improved greatly over time.
as baby boomers remember it never quite went away, but actually morphed
into a sound that today is defined as much by fine-tuned craft and artfulness
as by sheer sonic size.
That is, as currently practiced by a group of bands who are broad-ranging
but still of a similar school - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Secret
Machines, Interpol and others- the signature consists of dense, swirling
whirlpools of music with a hard-edged but melodic bent, achieved with
complex layering of guitars, heavy-duty effects and distortion and almost
inhumanly oversized drums. Usually, it's pretty compelling stuff.
As practiced by Lab Partners, an excellent and quickly emerging band
that's based right here in Dayton, it's also laced with an upbeat good
humor and undeniable optimism that is often missing from a genre in
which gloom and angst seem to naturally predominate. That's a good thing,
by the way, that sets them apart from their pack.
Lab Partners - Michael Smith and Michael Volk on guitars, Amy Smith
on keys, Todd Carll on drums - play on their new album with a seriousness,
not to say a gravity, that shows an appreciation of their move up from
the Dayton indie Big Beef label to the slightly larger Portland, Ore.-based
Reverb - but which is also bolstered by a real-world sensibility that
feels optimistic and wise. If it's not a gigantic step in labels, it
is a step, and Lab Partners (one of the best recent band names we've
heard, by the way) understand they're advancing and perform accordingly.
So Wicked Branches pulses with a hard, knotty energy that veers often
toward the psychedelic, or whatever passes for it these days, and which
the band itself calls "spacerock." Rather than get caught
up any further in labels than we have here already, we'd rather just
declare it as we hear it: straightforward, solid, and addictively listenable.
The band seems perched on the threshold of leading Dayton's next wave
of Great Bands the Rest of the World Needs to Hear, a place recently
vacated by Guided by Voices and looking for a new standard-bearer. Ladies
and gentlemen, we have our nominee.
iPod picks: It's How You Feel, Tidal Wave, Wicked Branches.