It’s probably safe to say that The Flaming Lips aren’t really a rock band anymore and have traded the majority of their guitars and anthemic choruses in for synthesizers and pre-programmed drums. This further deviation into electronic psychedelia can be perfectly summed up in their most recent full-length, Oczy Mlody.
As a stand-alone piece, this album is an exciting science fiction soundtrack that grants the listener an escape to another world. The cocoon of keyboards layered throughout the entirety of the work sound more like UFO’s than they do instruments. Frontman, Wayne Coyne’s voice comes across sleepier and ambient than it ever has. On tracks like Nidgy Nie (Never No) or How?? He chooses to be more a part of the sonic landscape by burying his vocals in the tracks so deep that the listener finds themselves chasing them down a rabbit hole to hear them completely.
On my favorite track, Galaxy I Sink, the band shows more maturity in their sound by using a John Williams-esque string section that comes on unexpectedly but is welcomed as the climax of Oczy Mlody. The only downside is that the string section doesn’t last long enough but not much in the Flaming Lips’ body of work does. However, a smaller, similar orchestral section is used in the following track, One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill, in a nice way. The minute, symphonic elements of The Flaming Lips’ new album are by far the most unique part about it.
As far as Oczy Mlody fitting into the rest of the Coyne’s and the rest of the band’s discography is where there’s issues. After the departure of longtime drummer and contributor on so many levels, Kliph Scurlock, in 2014, it’s worth noting that he may have been the factor that kept the ‘Lips grounded with through his drumming and older rock influences. Perhaps this is why there are no standard drum parts on the new album. While the new album is an accomplishment for sure, it’s tough to compare it some of its predecessors though this is something Wayne Coyne has strived for on each of his band’s releases.
This brings us to Mr. Coyne himself and how the band has presented itself on this album in comparison to the past. On previous full-lengths such as Clouds Taste Metallic, The Soft Bulletin, or At War with the Mystics there was a genuine, for lack of a better term, “weirdness” being perpetuated. Listeners were able to relate to the Flaming Lips but still respect their futuristic take on alternative rock music. Growing up in the colorless and clean millennium, Wayne Coyne was a hero to weirdo kids like myself and others. Now it feels like the Flaming Lips aren’t a band that belong to the generation that were fans of them during their heyday in the mid 2000’s. One can appreciate they want to stay youthful in their sound and constantly change but Oczy Mlody feels unfair to diehard fans. The duet with Miley Cyrus on the last track, titled We A Family, is laughable at best and is by no means the strongest song on the album.
As stated above, Oczy Mlody IS a good album on its own. It’s weird how in a society that’s obsessed with going to Mars, The Flaming Lips are really the only band talking about space travel and doing it successfully. On the downside, the “weirdness” that the band is known for just comes across as forced now but they are still a musical entity to keep an eye on because of their envelope-pushing efforts.
Click here to hear Nidgy Nie (Never No) from the album.
– Mike Metcalf