Lab Partners - Review for Daystar:

Rating: 6.4

If one was to combine Galaxie 500's ethereal fireworks and Spaceman 3's jammier tendencies with a taste of Beulah's sappy harmonies, he or she might end up with something closely approximating Lab Partners, Dayton's answer to the age old question, "Where's the dreampop?" The results of this hybridization have been documented as Daystar, an exhaustingly comprehensive case-study on the effects produced through blending a core structure of blissful shoegazing with just enough poppy bounce to make said shoes tap every now and again. On paper, it's a fascinating theory, but in practice it can't help but yield a little less than the sum of its parts; maybe someone should double-check the formula.

In isolated instances, Lab Partners seem to have a brilliant grasp on the delicate science of crafting fuzzy drones for mopey kids, but brightening things up enough to keep people watching the skies instead of the floors. The preliminary results are decidedly positive. The sweet acoustic refrains and 60s pop harmonies of "Gold" are a strange and effective mixture of upbeat and bittersweet, and its jangly chords merge with the massive feedback theatrics that made space-rock famous on "Those Things". Beautifully strangled notes gasp for air through waves of feedback while the vocals glide just over top, clean and clear. It's lush, flowery music that easily lends itself to such lush, flowery description, and the early tests are a real success; however, in just two tracks, Lab Partners also inadvertently showcase the entire width and breadth of their powers.

Like all good students of the scientific method, Lab Partners realize that these trials need to be performed again and again, to ensure the veracity of their output. That's when the trouble begins; the group sticks to a fairly rigid equation-- open small, build big, lather, rinse, and repeat-- and they rarely appear to be comfortable working outside of it. They mimic Galaxie 500 not only in sound, but in sheer constancy as well; the link is so omnipresent that for a few brief moments during the opening of "After Hours" I would have sworn up and down that I was listening to "Strange". Fortunately, overt comparisons aside, such heavy-handed influence peddling is rare; Lab Partners have seen farther because they usually just stand on the shoulders of giants, not because they've ripped them off.

Still, by the time the album passes the 50-minute mark (and you realize there are still twenty more waiting in the wings), the sense of predictability becomes stifling. Occasionally, some outlying data crops up; the brief wall-of-psych on "Riptide", the minimalist echoes of "Waves Keep Falling", or even the blues-tinted, hard rock crunch of "Magnify" all fall out of step to mixed effect, but they're the exception to the rule. The bulk of Lab Partners' work seems content to reproduce prior effort, creating what feels like an abundance of filler. One sprawling, ten-minute epic falls well within standard tolerances ("Still Shine On"-- the title says it all); the second is just a more sensitive remix. It's hard to fault these guys for giving more than necessary, and as the padding on Daystar goes, it's relatively strong. Still, when Lab Partners begin to outdo themselves at the same songs on the same album, you'd be well advised to cut their funding.

-Eric Carr, April 15th, 2003