Lab Partners - Review for Wicked Branches:
Dayton Daily News

July 29, 2005

By Ron Rollins

Lab Partners
Wicked Branches
Grade: A-, but we might give an A in a few weeks after more listening. Daystar, the band's debut, improved greatly over time.

Progressive rock 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.