Three-time Grammy winners and eclectic, experimental maximalists The Flaming Lips make their long-awaited return with their first album in four years, Oczy Mlody, this Friday 13th – leader Wayne Coyne’s birthday. Cited as the ultimate life-affirming festival band, The Lips, who formed in Oklahoma in 1983, are also set to be kicking off a world tour this month.
In the significant gap since The Flaming Lips’ last album, 2013’s The Terror, the band released ‘With A Little Help From My Fwends’, a star-studded track-for-track tribute to The Beatles’ classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, where they collaborated with special guests including My Morning Jacket, Moby and Miley Cyrus. Following this, they collaborated with Cyrus once more on her experimental album Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz in an unlikely partnership formed through mutual admiration and psychedelic visions. This year she returns the favour, lending her vocals to The Lips for the final track of Oczy Mlody, ‘We A Famly’.
Oczy Mlody, meaning ‘eyes of the young’ in Polish, is no less experimental in nature than its predecessors, but recalls those psychedelic, dazzling, space-rock elements that fans of the band love so well. Oczy Mlody could easily be described as an incredibly visual and deeply sensory experience as an entire record, and that is what sets it apart.
Deliciously haunting, the title track of Oczy Mlody begins slow and stuttering, a short, spacey track that lacks vocals but succeeds in setting the rest of the tone for the record and the tracks that follow. Opening with evocative, echoing birdsong, ‘How??’ is welcomed with Wayne Coyne’s aching, vulnerable vocals. He questions throughout: “Are you with us?/Are you burning out?”. A sparse track dazzling with heavy, stuttering synths panning left and right, it is deep and captivating.
The first of many weird and wonderful track names, as is only to be expected of The Flaming Lips, ‘There Should Be Unicorns” shifts the pace into big, bold, rumbling synths and jungly percussion. Here, communicated through both lyrics and melodies, the recurring theme of nature becomes apparent. Saying that, Coyne also broods about motorcycle stunts, day-glo strippers and edible butterflies. It’s hard to work out where this is going, but for now, the dreamy allure of this record has got me in its grasp all the same.
Sad, soft, and lyrically pretty soppy, the next few tracks fill in before the questionably named ‘One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill’. The Lips definitely succeed in setting the scene here. With sharp, driving drums and a bizarre little story involving being shot by a wizard, it definitely made me feel as though I could be marching through a thick, creepy forest at dusk. Or maybe just dropped into the peak of a night-time woodland acid trip where I don’t really belong.
‘The Castle’ is another sweetly sung little number about flowers, fairytales and bumblebees, featuring gooey lines such as “Her eyes were butterflies”. So after all the extremes of ups and downs we’ve experienced so far, it’s only natural that ‘Almost Home’ pulls us gently back in again. Keeping in with the slow, sombre spirit of the majority of this record, this track rings with hazy, fragile comedown vibes and struggles along with ambiguous lyrics.
The much-anticipated Cyrus/Lips duet, ‘We A Famly’, concludes the album with cutesy video game opening melodies, Cyrus entering the track with a husky giggle before launching into an uplifting chorus as she chants the line “We a family” over and over. Cyrus’ influence throughout the album is clear – but this breath of fresh air is essential in the final minutes.
The Flaming Lips certainly live up to their unpredictable reputation throughout Oczy Mlody, although it’s clear the imagery featured in this record is a lot darker than the rest of their catalogue. Oczy Mlody is comparable to a mysterious acid trip in a scary forest – impressive at times, but for the most part, confusing and pretty lethargic, it lacks the excitement of past releases.
But don’t take my word for it. Named one of Pitchfork’s ‘Top 50 Bands To See Before You Die’, The Flaming Lips cannot be judged on their records alone. Known worldwide for their mind-blowing performances and stunning visuals, The Lips really are a band that need to be seen to be believed.
Oczy Mlodyis out this Friday, January 13.
The album is available for pre-order now on double-LP coloured vinyl, CD and digital download. Fans who pre-order will receive an instant download of four tracks in advance of the album’s release date.
01 Oczy Mlody 02 How?? 03 There Should Be Unicorns 04 Sunrise (Eyes of the Young) 05 Nigdy Nie (Never No) 06 Galaxy I Sink 07 One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill 08 Do Glowy 09 Listening to the Frogs With Demon Eyes 10 The Castle 11 Almost Home (Blisko Domu) 12 We a Famly
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