Album review: The Flaming Lips – ‘Embryonic’

Album review: The Flaming Lips - 'Embryonic'

Back in touch with their dark side for a brilliantly unhinged masterpiece

At points on this glorious act of galloping lunacy it feels as if you’re being sensuously lobotomised by a higher power. It is as if the devil has drilled holes above both of your ears, God has put his lips to one of the apertures and then blown your brains out the other side so it sprays across a canvas like a Jackson Pollock.

[a]The Flaming Lips[/a] are much like the halves of your brain actually; two complex entities joined by only the smallest amount of matter. There is the (very entertaining) live band who deplete the world’s stocks of glitter and beat their audience into submission with good vibes, spectacular light shows, mass singalongs and giant balloons.

But this is a glorious transmission from their evil twin; the effervescent psychedelic rock band who held sway until their greatest triumph to date, 1999’s ‘The Soft Bulletin’. This is the band of acid-damaged punks who conduct symphonies of car stereos and release quadruple albums that need to be played simultaneously (‘Zaireeka’).

This means there are no immediate pop singles like ‘Do You Realize??’: instead there is a double album’s worth of mesmeric and hypnotic grooves and moments of sublime tension and release. After several listens (this album DEMANDS constant replaying) it is clear that there are pop songs in the form of ‘I Can Be A Frog’, featuring [a]Karen O[/a] on animal noises, and ‘Worm Mountain’ with MGMT, but far better are the electric Miles Davis freak-out of ‘Scorpio Sword’ and the Can kraut-pound of ‘Watching The Planets’. The band (who centre around the prodigious talent of multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd and the Messianic vision of multi-mentalist frontman Wayne Coyne) exist in a time of sonic bullying, where cash cows such as [a]U2[/a] and [a]Metallica[/a] use the studio tool of compression to achieve market place visibility.

So trust them to take this tool and turn it into an art form. For ‘Embryonic’ sounds like it was mastered by a serial killer. On ‘Aquarius Sabotage’, jagged spears of silvery noise pierce your consciousness. Even at low volume this album screams ‘Stop what you are doing and listen to me!’ The opening salvo of ‘Convinced Of The Hex’ and ‘The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine’ alone will have you blinking

at the sheer brightness of the sound.Ten years after their last masterpiece, [a]The Flaming Lips[/a] have finally produced another one.

[b]John Doran[/b]

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