Music Review: The Flaming Lips, “Embryonic”
All great artists understand that every idea has its termination point, and with their big, apocalyptic howl of a headphone album, “Embryonic,” the Flaming Lips are at that jagged end and daring everyone who came on board in the past decade to march off the edge with them. If “In a Priest Driven Ambulance” ushered in their mind-charring psychedelic phase and “The Soft Bulletin” took them into an elegant avant-pop headspace, then “Embryonic” is the Lips detonating a dissonant homemade space-jazz explosion.
The chief sonic element in “Embryonic” is the shock of accidental-sounding noise. Beginning with “Convinced of the Hex,” Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, Michael Ivins and Kliph Scurlock embrace echo, fuzz and dodgy circuits to make a kind of free-form rock that can go from big and beautiful to claustrophobic and terrifying. Pounding along on John Bonham-style rhythm crashes, “See the Leaves” depicts seasonal change as the stuff of nightmares, and “Worm Mountain” takes a more cataclysmic view of death — “the sound of your starburn burning out.”
These dark mediations are offset by moments of bizarre playfulness (“I Can Be a Frog,” featuring Karen O) and unadulterated beauty — “The Impulse” sounds like nothing less than a Vocoder-soaked early ‘70s soul song by the Stylistics. But “Embryonic” is mostly a mesmerizing dark ride filled with ominous harp glissandos pointing to an uncertain future for us all and a map to the Lips’ future filled with monsters.
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