I wish a younger version of myself had been more in tune with the wonderful music that has always been around during my 24 years on this Earth, rather than just being force fed whatever bubble gum garbage was on the radio, whatever Classic Rock music was deemed good enough to still be popular, or whatever flavor of the month Rap Star was clever enough to come up with some catchy hook. I wish a younger me had discovered bands like The Flaming Lips.
For those uninitiated, The Flaming Lips are a psychedelic and spacey American rock band from Oklahoma City. They produce what can be classified as bizarre rock tunes, and when listening to them I can hardly believe they aren’t mega-Gods here in their home country (they’ve achieved much more notoriety overseas.)
Their latest effort, Embryonic, would be a pretty good album to initiate yourself to the band with. One the surface it’s one 18-song album, but it’s actually two separate 9-song albums contained on the same disc. Fans able to get their hands on the Deluxe Edition get the two individual discs in their intended recorded format. I was not one of those lucky fans, so I just got the one-disc album that contains the full 18 songs.
The album starts off with “Convinced of the Hex” and fans of The Colbert Report will be familiar with this song, as the band played it live on the show on September 17th. It’s an addictive, catchy song with a slow, experimental, psychedelic rhythm, and is just an overall groovy song to kick of the album with. It’s the kind of song that invites you in for a nice warm cup of hot chocolate, and then very subtly spikes that nice beverage with some hallucinogenic materials to create some delicious and powerful substance. It’s the type of song that you can just listen to on repeat over and over again, and it never grows old.
The first half of the album then blends together a spacey ambiance around some distortion and lyrical potency that is both unique and incredible. The songs flow melodically into one another, but each creates its own distinct and palpable mood. The lyrics are cryptic and cogently sang by Wayne Coyne, band frontman extraordinaire, and this clearness of the vocal track adds layers to the musical ambiance, beyond what would normally appear. The words seem to meld with the music to create a sensational melodic orgy, and our ears are the benefactor. The strongest songs from the first set of 9 include “Convinced of the Hex”, “Aquarius Sabotage”, “See the Leaves”, and “Powerless”.
The second half of the album doesn’t sound overtly different from the first half, but some nuance is to be discovered. It begins with “The Ego’s Last Stand”, a trippy song that halfway through changes pace quite suddenly and very strongly. This half of the album flows incredibly well, and the strength in later tracks like “Sagittarius Silver Announcement”, “The Impulse”, and “Silver Trembling Hands” really allow the album to attain a different status as it evolves.
The strength of the album lies not instrumentally, but in concept, layout, and execution. The sound of the album changes between tracks, but never changes so drastically that the songs just feel tossed together and throw in a non-beneficial sequence. There is a definite mathematical equation of sorts that dictates how this album flows. Grungy-psychedelic tunes are followed by spacey instrumentally driven songs, and the blending of the concepts allows for the album the opportunity to melt together and become an album rather than a collection of songs.
A strong album from influential band The Flaming Lips is a wonderful collection for new and old fans alike. I think this album is strong from start to finish, and at moments it felt like a grungier Pink Floyd album. That, my friends, is some lofty company. Now musically, the Lips and Floyd have major differences, but in implementation, they sound much more similar than people might initially think. They aren’t prisoners of their instruments, and they use so many different techniques on each song, that each song feels like its own separate entity. If you’ve never heard The Flaming Lips, check this album out and then go back and examine their catalog. It’s a wonderful collection of interesting, psychedelic, and strongly conceptual music.
Final Score: 9.0/10 (Outstanding)