The Flaming Lips: Oczy Mlody – album review

oczyThe Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

(Bella Union)

CD / LP / DL

8/10

Balancing lush, psychedelic soundscapes with apocalyptic urgency, Wayne Coyne and co rediscover their Midas touch on album number fourteen. Sam Lambeth just says yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

There’s a scene in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Bart, forced onto a shuttle comprising of has-been celebrities, hit the eject buttons and fly towards the sun. Just before their heads explode (offscreen with a comical ‘pop’), their faces bloat as smiles of sunkissed joy envelope their yellow features. Listening to The Flaming Lips, particularly in their current manifestation, incurs a similar juxtaposition – a feeling of giddy euphoria before the crushing, end-of-the-world uneasiness.

Wayne Coyne and his merry band of eccentrics had crossed the line into commercialism with The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots…, two records that allowed for stately, classicist melodies to peer into their trademark tripped-out tendencies. However, ever since 2009’s Embryonic, the group have ploughed an (even more) odd furrow, whether it be trading tokes with Miley Cyrus, releasing Beatles covers albums or doing battle with Santas in Mars. For Oczy Mlody, however, they recapture some of their past zeal while still treading terrific new waters.

After 2013’s ominous, and underrated, break-up record The Terror, Coyne is in a more uplifting mood, albeit still dogged by the impending pull of immortality. The opening title track presents the record’s manifesto, Beach House-style keys layered gently over atmospheric guitar noodles and carressed bass notes. This bleeds into ‘How??’, both minimal and sombre in its grandeur as Coyne laments: “I tried to tell you, but I don’t know how” as ominous synths are layered on top.

Both beautiful and beaten, Oczy Mlody is at its best when multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd keeps the loops and beats in check – lead single ‘The Castle’ is built on Coyne’s fragile, shot tenor, a delicately plucked guitar motif and a dreamy bubble of beats, a sorrowful reaction to a friend’s suicide. Equally as gorgeous is the grandiose spaghetti Western strings of ‘Galaxy I Sink’, a moment that recalls The Soft Bulletin‘s beautiful ‘Waitin’ for a Superman’. ‘Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)’ revels in its somnambulist shuffle, with distant keys and a mechanical drum pattern, while there’s room for Cyrus to drop a few lines in the closing ‘We A Famly’.

As Coyne comments somewhat in ‘The Castle’, Oczy Mlody is a fairy tale hiding a poison apple. Take a bite…you won’t be disappointed.

Oczy Mlody is out now on Bella Union. The Flaming Lips are on Facebook and Twitter.

Sam Lambeth is a Birmingham-based writer, journalist and musician. You can read more of his work at his blog, and he is also releasing a record for Teenage Cancer Trust. You can donate here.

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