It's no secret that I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with The Flaming Lips. One of the greatest live acts you can hope to see, and capable of making truly transcendent albums, their recent output has been perplexing to me. Whilst 2013's The Terror shared much in common with their early psychedelic experimentation it lacked any sort of charm or melodic sweetness that had underpinned Wayne Coyne's most commercially successful songs. The follow-up album With A Little Help From My Fwends was a covers record that the world was neither waiting for, nor needed. However I still believe that The Flaming Lips have something valuable to contribute that has yet to be revealed. Thankfully album number fifteen, Oczy Mlody, goes someway towards confirming there's still mileage in the Oklahoma band's tank.
During the early stages of the record Coyne coos gently through a drug fuelled haze; "Are you with us? Are you burning out?" ('How'). It seems like a recognition of the divisive nature of The Flaming Lips' output in the last decade, but it also seems like a promise of something intriguing to come, it's a promise that's for the most part fulfilled with Oczy Mlody. There's an awful lot in common with The Terror throughout, again this is a fever-dream mood piece with no emphasis on any one particular song. Unlike The Terror's combative and isolating aural assault though, The Flaming Lips have infused a strong sense of melody into these twelve songs, ultimately that leads to a far more satisfying experience.
Unsurprisingly there are lots of lyrical references to unicorns, wizards, and mushrooms, but that's all part of the fun really. If you do get on board with what Coyne is trying to do with Oczy Mlody, which I suspect is why he poses that question directly to the listener so early on in proceedings; the fantastical details of the experience he creates become less of an annoyance and more like a DayGlo fairytale. If you're looking for the emotional punch of something like 'Do You Realise?' you're probably in the wrong place, but there certainly is merit in recreating a mind-altering fantasy here. Coyne feels he has something to say about the basics of human experience.
If there's a standout moment while the album washes pleasantly over you in swathes of loops alongside the meandering narrative, it's probably during 'Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes'. The percussion that introduces the frogs evokes their noises and glistening eyes in the darkness, before a guitar eases the malevolent mood into something more melancholy. It's the perfect example of melody framing The Flaming Lips' psychedelic themes into a palatable and understandable song structure.
Oczy Mlody is certainly a challenging record if you've not explored further than The Flaming Lips most commercial work, but I suspect it will stand the test of time in their back catalogue, which may not be the case for The Terror and other more recent work. Miley Cyrus does make a brief appearance during 'We A Family', which is a suitably joyous ending to the album, delivering on the promise that Coyne made at the start of the record. It's certainly not an album to cherry pick songs from, but the overall experience ensures that The Flaming Lips haven't exhausted their unique brand of weirdness yet.
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