The Flaming Lips

Embryonic

Warner Bros.

Oct 15, 2009 Issue #28 Fall 2009 - Monsters of Folk Bookmark and Share


It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since The Flaming Lips released their genre-busting masterpiece The Soft Bulletin. That album changed the game for experimental independent musicians and helped pave the way for indie rock to come. These days The Flaming Lips are elder statesman in a much younger person's scene, but they continue to push boundaries with the best of them.

Embryonic is the band's 12th album (not counting 2008's DVD/CD Christmas on Mars), and it's a monster. At 18 tracks and well over an hour running time, it is everything you have come to expect from The Flaming Lips—psychedelic soundscapes, ethereal textures, electronic touches, falsetto vocals, philosophical musings, and so much more. The opening track, "Convinced of the Hex," is all guitar stabs, electronic fuzz, and drum fury, while "The Impulse" prefers loungy, electronic textures and affected vocals. "If" is two minutes of dime store philosophy with singer Wayne Coyne intoning, "People are evil/It's true/But on the other side/They can be gentle too," as if in meditated prayer, while "Worm Mountain" is led by big, dumb, bass-heavy stoner rock groove. And then there is the light-hearted silliness of "I Can Be a Frog," with Coyne singing, "She said/'I can be a frog/I can be a bat/I can be a bear/Or I can be a cat,'" with each animal's mention followed by the voice of a woman making the sounds those animals make. Perhaps the best track here is the album's centerpiece, "Powerless," a near seven-minute epic starting with spare keyboard and bass textures that envelope Coyne's haunted vocals, before being interrupted by an extended quasi-Indian flavored guitar solo that sounds like it is the product of a demented Neil Young on a bad acid trip. To say that Embryonic demands repeated listens is an understatement-there are a lot of ideas here. But, as always, The Flaming Lips distill their crazy musical vision with an expert's mastery. And it is unforgettable. (www.flaminglips.com)

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