Showing posts with label Flaming Lips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flaming Lips. Show all posts


Psychedelic Rock Review: The Flaming Lips - American Head

Release Date: September 11, 2020
Label: Bella Union

After a decade of dabbling in the wayward experimental, prodigal psycho-proggers, The Flaming Lips have returned home with the modern-day jewel, American Head.  After the garage-acid college radio days of the '80s and '90, the band created the triumphant triumvirate, The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and At War with the Mystics -  three of the finest albums any band has ever recorded in succession. They closed out the 2000s with the brilliant Embryonic, a supercharged experimental onslaught which would carve an even stranger path into the 2010s. 
Chalk it up to creative differences, ill-advised flights of fancy or indifference, but the 2010s were a decade that tried even the most ardent Flaming Lips fans. The terror of The Terror, the lethargy of Oczy Mlody, and the inanity of King's Mouth made most fans drift toward disinterest. The savvy stylings of the early 2020 collaboration with Deap Vally gave fans a sign that a return to form was imminent.  Now, with the real American Dream in complete chaos, the Lips provide their own, a sonic roadmap through the sadness, steering listeners across the landscape of loss with profundity and hope. 
Elegant and layered, the opening track "Will You Return/When You Come Down" is a piano and acoustic guitar-ladened masterwork.  The initial refrain carries the doleful tune into an acoustic chord shift that drives the mood deeper. "Now, all your friends are dead. And their ghosts. Floating around your bed. Hear it said. Now all your friends are dead." In remembrance of all the death that fell before him over the years, Wayne Coyne laments the fact that he will not reunite with his fallen brethren in heaven or Valhalla.  They are gone forever, and the weight of this realization crashes upon him in the song's crescendo. Underneath it all lies a cutting rhythm and gentleness reminiscent of Yoshimi and the Pink Robots.
Thus lies the central theme of American Dream.  It is a protocol on how to live one's life years after misspending one's youth. Do not fret, because a hopeful theme undercuts these songs.  The pain of these remembrances is less sharp and even hopeful with those you love by your side. In an ocean of death, "You and me Selling Weed" and "My Religion is You" offer the illusion of salvation. On "Dinosaurs on the Mountain," Coyne brings to light the memory of traveling in his family's station wagon as a kid. Pretending the trees on the mountain are dinosaurs, he laments a time when one could simply imagine and create things in one's mind without repercussions of reality, which creeps in as adults. 
"Assassins of Youth" is as brilliant a Flaming Lips song that's been created in the last twenty years. A galloping pop jaunt through the tenets of rock and rhythm, there's a touch of Zeppelin and, to Coyne's admission, a touch of ABBA as well. "Mother, please Don't Be Sad" is another - a Bohemian Rhapsody-esque gem polished with soulful lyrics and other-worldly interludes.  
In American Head, the Flaming Lips have not quite come full circle as no journey of enlightenment ever truly ends at its source. Their journey is more like a spiral, and they've swooped by and tipped their caps to their former selves as they glide inward with a touching collection of songs ranking right up there with the best albums of 2020.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen


Alt-Rock Review: Deap Lips - Deap Lips

Release Date: March 13, 2020
Label: Cooking Vinyl Limited
In their latest attempt to throw their arms around the world, The Flaming Lips have teamed up with the bluesy LA duo, Deap Valley, to create a curiously satisfying collaboration. Flaming Lips vocalist Wayne Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Drozd join Deap Vally guitar/vocalist Lindsey Troy and drummer/vocalist Julie Edwards in this psycho-blues-robot-alien-pop rock experiment. 

Since their triad of masterworks at the turn of the century, The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots & At War with the Mystics, The Flaming Lips' trajectory has been crooked and confounding at best. While 2009's Embryonic gave fans hope for the band's evolution into an impassioned psycho-prog sound, 2013's The Terror steered their fans into another confounding direction. 2017's Oczy Mlody and 2019's King's Mouth attempted to blend elements of this newfound psycho-terror with the aforementioned triad of masterworks, striking chords in spots, yet missing the beat as a whole.
What has truly kept The Flaming Lips compelling and viable over the past 15 years has been their work with other bands and artists. Arguably, their best album over this period has been 2012's The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwiends.  Ambitious cover albums of Sgt. Pepper and Dark Side of the Moon assembled even more "fwiends." This current collaboration with Deap Vally follows suit by layering soulful vocals over more complex, yet lighter tracks.  "Home Thru Hell" is a standout that exemplifies this strange fusion, even adding some playful pokes. "taking all my wisdom from the Flaming Lips of youth." 
More intriguing elements of the Flaming Lips such as robotic blurps, churchbells, and descension into divine, jangling netherworlds are peppered throughout the collection. "Hope Held High" and "Love is Mind Control" are superb tracks reminiscent of some of the Flaming Lips' best psycho-pop-acoustic work. Lindsey Troy's vocals on these and other songs add an Amy Winehouse-style nofucksgiven nihilist bent to the atmosphere. 
Most satisfying is hearing Deap Vally's aggressive garage sound soften amidst The Flaming Lips psycho-prog vibe. Alternately, The Flaming Lips become sharp and soulful within Deap Vally's electrified boundaries.  
All in all, The Flaming Lips skillfully harnessing Deap Vally's raw strength makes for one of the most pleasant surprises of 2020. There's enough here to please fans of both bands and then some.  
- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen