It’s fair to say that Oklahoma City has a complicated relationship with the Flaming Lips. For a while, they were a weirdo underground rock band, then started to blow up when ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’ came out. Eventually, even your mom knew who they were and the Lips were the darlings of OKC and CMJ, not just users of THC and DMT.
It was also around that point that they stopped making music that I was interested in, and I swear to god it’s not in a hipster, “I liked them before you did” way. I didn’t even really get into them until after the hype wave began, but I gravitated towards the raw, psychedelic rock of the first half of their career (you can read my Top 10 Flaming Lips song list here). Eventually, they began to experiment more with synthesizers and electronics, which is fine in and of itself, but their late period albums don’t click with me in the same way that the Ronald Jones-era material does. It’s not bad music by any means- still creative and weird, but I can’t seem to find the same emotional connection.
So with the release of their newest album, “Oczy Mlody,” I’ve decided to sit down, listen to it with headphones on, and give it an honest and fair shake. I know that the best way to listen to the Flaming Lips is on a bunch of crazy drugs,but all I’ve got is Sudafed and boxed wine, so we’ll see where that takes us. Let’s start with the album cover:
I think it’s one of those Easter Island statues wearing swimming goggles and facing a snowman. It looks like the art director said, “Make the whole thing in MS Paint, and whatever you do, make sure it hurts your eyes to look at!” I have no idea what the album title means, but when I look at the words ‘Oczy Mlody,’ my brain translates it as ‘Oxycotin, M’lady!’
Here’s the tracklisting:
I like that they chose a clean, easy-to-read font.
Now, let’s go track-by-track and check out the album:
1) Oczy Mlody
The album opens with a bunch of synthesizers and drum machine stuff. It’s got this cold, echo chamber, kinda Witch House vibe to it. I don’t hate it, but I might forget it by the time I hit the third song.
This song kinda sounds like the last, but it has a heavy synth-fart bassline, and Wayne Coyne sings lyrics like “White trash rednecks earthworms eat the ground/Legalize it, every drug right now” and something about a “motherfucking hip-hop sound.” It doesn’t sound like hip-hop at all, but there’s some birds chirping and some flanger going on.
3) There Should Be Unicorns
Three songs in, and I still haven’t heard a guitar or a real drum kit. This song kinda sounds like ‘In the Air Tonight,’ but with more dramatic synthesizers, and Wayne gets to use cuss words. It’s the most interesting track so far, but I’m getting bored already. The end of the song has a guy talking about unicorns and stuff like he’s reading the label on a Dr Bronner’s soap.
4) Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)
This one is also flooded with dense electronics, but there’s a keyboard that sounds like a piano with a bunch of reverb, and an actual guitar is in there somewhere. It still doesn’t make me feel anything at all.
5) Nigdy Nie (Never No)
Here’s the second out of three songs with parentheses in the title. It’s starts out with something approximating a rap beat, drops out and gets noodly for a little bit, and then becomes distorted and funky. I’m curious if they’re going to perform any of this live. Would it just be Drozd on the laptop with Michael Ivins playing bass and then some unpaid extras dancing in cactus costumes to distract you?
6) Galaxy I Sink
Icey, Radiohead ‘Kid A’-style electronics open the song, then Wayne’s vocals come in with an effect that sounds like he’s singing into a tin can. Spaghetti western guitar replaces the clunky keyboards, and a sweeping string section suddenly kicks in and washes over the track. This is the most dynamic track so far, for whatever that’s worth.
7) One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill
Another super low-end fart-synth bass line driven track, but there’s some cool percussive hits. It reminds me of a Bjork song, but with an old guy singing instead. The album gets a little more interesting as it goes along, but I’m still gonna take a break here so I can fold some laundry.
8) Do Glowy
Alright, got all those socks folded. It was almost like a fun break. Now back to my chores. Wayne Coyne’s using auto-tune on his vocal track here. I get the hint that he’s been listening a bunch of rap music from like eight years ago and trying to incorporate it into the album. He’s got some pretty insightful lyrics here, like “Drip drip drippy glow/Glowy and drippy yeah/Doin’ it right/Doin’ it like you care.” The arrangement is lush and has an Animal Collective vibe.
9) Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes
If you took the bass line from David Essex’s ‘Rock On’ and put a mildly annoying chime over the top, you’d get the opening of this song. Then a sparse guitar similar to the one on ‘Galaxy I Sink’ comes in and Wayne asks you if you’ve ever seen someone die. About four and a half minutes in, they throw in a harp and some strings.
10) The Castle
“Her eyes were butterflies/Her smile was a rainbow” Jesus Christ, did Wayne steal a middle school student’s notebook for these lyrics? Ignoring that, the production on this track is cool. Everything is drenched in reverb, and there’s some layered vocals that add a nice touch.
11) Almost Home (Blisko Domu)
Oooo, this one sounds like Kraftwerk, who are the progenitors of chilly, minimalist electronic rock. It makes me want to take a mushroom-fueled ride on the Autobahn.
12) We a Family
The synth-bass is maxed out on the Fart Meter here. It’s like that guy driving through your neighborhood in a shitty Honda Civic with the muffler that intentionally sounds like the car is dying. Why do they make those? Anyways, you’ve got more harps, and then Miley Cyrus sings at the end, who’s presence here I genuinely enjoy.
By the way, Miley apparently sends Wayne pictures of her peeing. I know I buried the lede here, but yeah that’s a thing. He’s old enough that he could have potty trained her as a child, but I’m gonna try and not pass judgement.
This album is definitely back-loaded. It gets more interesting the deeper it gets, but nothing really grips me. I know it makes me sound old as hell to say this, but what’s wrong with playing guitars and real drums and rock music and all that? Most of the album feels like a few dudes goofin’ around on ProTools. Aside from a few textural passages, it mostly feels sterile. I don’t want to trash it, but it just ain’t for me.