An album containing references to unicorns, faeries, witches, wizards, galaxies, frogs, Day-Glo strippers and castles means either its creators have ingested enough LSD to keep the entire population of California tripping their collective tits off for a weekend or The Flaming Lips are back on the block with a new release.
Triple Grammy winning ‘Lips’ have always had a penchant for doing whatever the hell took their fancy, their last release, the star studded Sgt Pepper cover album living proof of that. Their music has also enjoyed largely favourable coverage by critics without necessarily creating the commercial success that goes with it, proving the notion that making great music and selling loads of records doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with each other.
Album number seventeen, the 12-song Oczy Mlody is a testament to The Flaming Lips’ enduring prowess on the fringes of progressive psych rock, and released some 31 years since their first work, sees Coyne et-al as crackers yet perversely commercial as ever, taking us on yet another glorious psychedelic journey.
Sparse opener and title track, the name of which refers to a designer party drug of choice in the distant future, opens the wormhole with a sub 3-minute instrumental, blending oriental sounding synths with experimental rhythms as we drift gently into the increasingly woozy ‘How?’ as video-nasty bass pedal suddenly gives everything a decidedly sinister edge.
Next up is the aforementioned track about the equine pool-cue hybrid ‘There should be Unicorns’………we’re talking purple eyed ones of course, as opposed to the green eyed variant……different drug dealer presumably as an 808-era drum sound propels the listener through a similarly bleak electronic soundscape when, just when you think things couldn’t get any madder, a voice sounding like James Earl Jones brings the song to a close with an impromptu speech about the end of the world., totally predictable as usual.
We finally break the batshit-o-meter with the 6-minute epic ‘One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill’ unfolding with minimalist Cuban Clave propelling you through the surreal and eerie undergrowth. After that, the seven and a half minute ‘Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes’ seems like a piece of cake.
Oczy Mlody does contain upbeat moments of delicious dreaminess too, including the heady ‘Sunrise (Eyes of the Young), the new age ethereality of ’The Castle’ and closing track ‘We A Family’ as we finally emerge on the other side.
Challenging yet rewarding if you persevere, and of course, madder than a box of (demon eyed) frogs….. definitely a record the fans will love.
Words - Mike Price
Flaming Lips official
Oczy Mlody is released on Bella Union on 13/01/17.