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Album review: The Flaming Lips’ ‘Embryonic’

The Flaming Lips

Warner Bros.
October 13, 2009

By Michael Walsh

In a true change of the pace, weird rockers The Flaming Lips reverted to the strangeness that gained them a boatload of fans on the cult level. When you consider that Zaireeka, the album before their switch to a more standard sound, was an album with four compact discs that when played simultaneously on four audio systems the four CDs would produce a harmonic or juxtaposed sound, you’d understand how normal their weird sound is to them.

Embryonic is definitely weird but ultimately still an accessible album. I’d hate to say that if you jumped on the Lips album with The Soft Bulletin and never became familiar with their earlier work, you might feel a little let down. But those who love the band’s strange, sometimes ambient interludes, freaked out and extended jam-like sessions that are all over the place might fall in love. Or if you love strange things in general you should find a place inside of lead singer Wayne Coyne’s mind.

Definite favorites for me from the album are tracks like “See the Leaves,” a pulsating psychedelic track and “The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine,” which feels like a companion sister track to the aforementioned one.

In the category of just plain weird falls “I Can Be A Frog”. Help here is given from Karen O, lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The lyrical content here reminds me of classic Lips work like “Moth in the Incubator” or “She Don’t Use Jelly” from their Transmissions from the Satellite Heart album.

I’d encourage people to try this album even if they are only familiar with their last three albums in The Flaming Lips’ discography. And it isn’t that the band’s last three albums before this weren’t good, they’re excellent albums and good entry points into the band in general. It’s just that they’re different, and listeners should be prepared for that to able themselves to make the best judgment of the band’s most excellent latest work.