Glancing at Wayne Coyne’s psych rock CV, you’d think he was trying to throw the interview. Previous employment? Human hamster. Massive-handed romantic. Nun puppeteer. Nudism advisor to Miley Cyrus. Referee of numerous dance-offs between aliens and Santas. Giant psychedelic vagina inspector… next!
The one thing Coyne and his band of cosmic Oklahoman sound-manglers The Flaming Lips have never been is what you want them to be. Their 15th album ‘Oczy Mlody’ is being touted as a return to their sci-fi space pop heydays of ‘The Soft Bulletin’ (1999) and ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ (2002), seminal records that atomised millennial dullards like Starsailor with face lasers of pure acid pop. It’s not that. Far from the psychedelic party albums of yore, ‘Oczy Mlody’ is rooted firmly in their current experimental period, combining the sprawling sonics of 2009’s ‘Embryonic’ with the sombre mood of Coyne’s 2013 break-up album ‘The Terror’.
This is a sparse, barely corporeal hour of synthetic glitch work connecting disjointed song segments – future funk, psychedelic and prog, goblin pop and bits that sound like a very tired Boards Of Canada trying to write a Broadway musical on heavy-duty tranquillisers. As you might expect from track titles like ‘Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes’ and ‘One Night While Hunting For Faeries And Witches And Wizards To Kill’, Coyne’s trademark hallucinogenic imagery still thrives, but it’s delivered cold and deadpan, with the air of a rigid, paranoid comedown.
In the bits when Darth Vader isn’t talking about purple-eyed unicorns shitting everywhere (‘There Should Be Unicorns’), the odd proper song drifts by like a neon island in a shifting ice lake. ‘The Castle’ sounds like ‘Yoshimi…’’s refined reprise, glacial ballads ‘Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)’ and ‘We A Family’ are amorphous echoes of ‘Do You Realize??’ and minimalist electronic epic ‘How’ is what ‘Creep’ might sound like if Radiohead wrote it today. Otherwise, ‘Oczy Mlody’ is the sonic equivalent of a deserted space-ship adrift in the cosmos, with Coyne as the lonely repair-bot dusting the diodes. A psych rock Passengers, then, rather than Barbarella.