I’ll be the first to admit that after listening to At War with the Mystics a few years back, I fully expected Embryonic, the new album from The Flaming Lips to be one of the worst albums I would come across this year. Yea, I lost the faith, and like others, I was pleasantly suprised when I got my hands on the album. A few spins in, and I dug it.
For the first few moments, you can tell that the shift of the group has gone towards a less pop-centric approach to writing. Gone from the opening moments are the anthemic pop songs one would expect to hear coming from Wayne’s mouth as he walked across a crowd in a bubble. Still, the one thing that makes me reluctant to go full on into this conglomerate of sounds, which is really what the first few tracks are, is that I heard this all before. Sure, the Lips can pull it off, but it reminds me an awful lot like that Battles album from a few years back.
Then comes “Evil,” which starts out as mere noise samples, then goes into traditional song structure, and then fades back into the samples once again. Unfortunately, it’s not really a classic song approach for the band, and you won’t get a chance to really hear them pull off in that direction again until “I Can Be a Frog,” but you really don’t get too far into the song itself, due to the fact that you’re spending most of your time trying to catch the noises that correlate to Wayne’s lyrics. Even “Silver Trembling Hands” isn’t a straight-forward song, and it was the single. Take out the vocals, and you have the rest of the album in your hands. No lie.
So what makes up the majority of this album you might ask? Well, if I were The Flaming Lips, and I were constructing this album, or explaining away its secret recipe, I would do it as such: 2 Parts Flaming Lips, 1 Parts M83, 1 Parts Battles, 1 Part Liars/Deerhunter, 2 Pandering to Noise Fans, 1 Part Throwaways. You probably bake it in the studio for several years just to make it come out the way you want.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the lack of originality on this album, as far as where my ears hear the sounds coming from, is that very few people could execute an album precisely the way this group did. Their fusion of sampling, pop, psychedelia, jazz, noise, etc comes off successfully, without really exhibiting a lull in the album. If anyone could construct such a concept in their mind, and then pull if off, it had to be the guys that put together Zaireeka.
Sure, there aren’t any classic gems, like most of us really wanted to get the band to toss our way, but there is no denying that beneath the sinister construction of this noise, something beautiful will come to fruition. Will I be the one to see that beauty? Maybe so. As of now, I’m still trying to figure out who on Warner Brothers tried to explain Embryonic to the bosses on behalf of The Flaming Lips because I’m having trouble enough explaing it to myself, let alone anyone who reads this.
Download: Flaming Lips – Silver Trembling Hands [MP3]