Articles tagged with The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips get messy

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Call it heresy, but I’ve never been a big fan of the Flaming Lips‘ work over the past ten years. Ever since The Soft Bulletin, the Oklahoma group has watered down its weirdness with glossy synths and dreamy production tricks. It may have sounded petty, but it had the unfortunate effect of making Wayne Coyne’s thin vocals and quirky lyrics sound a bit too whimsical for their own good.

The Flaming Lips’ latest album, the double-disc opus Embryonic, avoids that problem by stripping down the arrangements to their bare essentials. The few instruments that remain ragged and distorted: the drums are shrouded in fuzz and reverb, while the bass sounds like it might explode out of the speakers at any moment. The first minute of “Aquarius Sabotage” is a mangled jazz-metal freakout, a trumpet squealing angrily over a cacophonous rhythm section. But this discord is off-set by unexpected harp flourishes that cut through the murky mix like rays of sunlight. The nursery rhyme-style lyrics of “I Can Be a Frog” would have probably sounded insufferably cute on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots; here, the song is a chilling minor key ballad, with Karen O providing animal noises that sound like they were recorded on an answering machine.

The band’s transformation on Embryonic runs deeper than production alone. Of the album’s eighteen tracks, not one of them is a full-blown pop song. Rather, most of the collection is reserved for quietly looming grooves like opener “Convinced of the Hex,” which rides a robotic vocal line for four minutes without offering anything that even remotely resembles a chorus. The closest the album comes to a traditionally-structured pop song is on the final track, “Watching the Planets.” It’s distorted and jarring as hell, but the “yes, yes, yes” hook is guaranteed to rattle around your skull long after the record is over. Karen O even makes a return, yelping during the triumphant instrumental passages. It’s a moment of glorious catharsis, perfectly placed at the end of a psychedelic mindfuck of an album.

Embryonic is out now via Warner Bros.
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