The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

EmbryonicI’ve been listening to The Flaming Lips since Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and have delved into the back catalogue as far as Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. I ordered the special furry double-album edition of Embryonic, which is pretty cool.

This album is quite a departure from the last few Flaming Lips releases, which were developing in a very electronic pop vein. Embryonic is a double-album, at least in the vinyl tradition, and as such is somewhat sprawling and slightly cumbersome.

Yet, it has a vital spark of energy, a weird vein of bright white electricity that runs through the record and keeps things interesting. This is probably the most overtly psychedelic of their career, and more than that, it’s probably also their darkest. The sound is hyper-compressed, fuzzed-up, buzzing, gritty, in-your-face, lo-fi energy, on a scale never before utilised by this band. Drums bang and crash, the bass grinds menacingly, guitars bleep and spit, dark clusters of electric piano clang and hum, and various electronics cut like electric sparks through the teeth.

Highlights include opener Convinced of the Hex, See the Leaves, Evil, Worm Mountain… It’s very samey in tone, with most tracks following the same basic outline and instrumentation, but the overall vibe is so vibrant and warm and energetic that it carries nicely even without the variance of earlier releases. Plus, it aids the feeling that this album is really an album, and not just a collection of songs – a feeling that was lacking on At War With the Mystics.

Where this album varies is in the songs themselves, which go from plaintive and calm to vitriolic. It’s all shades of the same colour though, and that colour is a very saturated orange.

Overall, very much recommended. It’s very gratifying that a band this far into their careers can still pull off a release this edgy and… How shall I put this… If you like The Flaming Lips because of their catchy pop songs, this album might be a bit too raw for your liking. For the rest of us, it’s a great left-turn that reminds us this band are still vital and alive.

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