I’ve loved The Flaming Lips forever. They’re a band you can get behind. A feel good, indie rock success story. A band that got better as they aged and got rewarded for the effort. That said, I almost didn’t buy Embryonic, their new release. Maybe it’s Flaming Lips fatigue, but I just haven’t loved the last several records. While nice when they show up in shuffle, Yoshimi and War With the Mystics are two records that have had little staying power in my book. In the past several years the band seems to have set its sights on a sugary sweet brand of psychedelia. They’ve become a feel good party band. While their brand of sunshiny day, psychedelic optimism isn’t bad, I have to admit to liking my psych with a bit more of a psych ward edge.
I decided to take a chance on the new one based on a couple of factors. The fine folks at Aquarius Records were raving about the record on their list. Their review led me to believe that perhaps the Lips had found a new musical vein to mine. Also, a quick look at the reviews in the iTunes store caught my eye. People raving about how bad it was and how horrid the production sounded piqued my interest. A couple of one-star reviews from people downloading MP3s, then complaining about the album’s sound quality was enough to convince me that, perhaps, purchasing the cd was in order.
I’ve only listened to the record once, but I’m tempted to say this is their best record in ages. Possibly one of their best ever. Embryonic is a refreshing blast. Propulsive bass-lines abound and creepy vibes pervade. Embryonic is a soundtrack, not for the summer festival circuit, but for someone trapped watching Christmas on Mars ’til the end of time. It’s got edge. It’s got grit. It’s got ice in its veins. It’s a late night record for a late night that might turn sour. The Flaming Lips have always been a band that has thrived when they’ve taken artistic chances, be it performance art trips like the Boom Box Experiments or Zaireeka, be it shedding guitars on The Soft Bulletin, be it turning to a more pop sensibility with Transmissions From The Satellite Heart. Embryonic finds them taking a move away from the pop and finding inspiration elsewhere. I’m hearing more Can than Beatles this time through and that’s a move I can get behind.