Genre: Experimental Rock/Neo-Psychedelia
Producer: The Flaming Lips, Scott Booker, Dave Fridmann
Release Date: January 13, 2017
The Flaming Lips have had a long and productive, even if wildly uneven, career. Around the turn of the millennium the Oklahoman psychedelic outfit received acclaim with their albums The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Since then, the psychedelic qualities of their output have been inversely proportional to the psychedelics the band members have been taking, which means that ever since the band has sworn off drugs, their music has been unlistenable to anyone not in hard psychedelics. Roughly for the last decade the band has been more known for such antics as releasing musical pieces 24 hours long or only listenable if played through twelve different smartphones simultaneously, releasing their music encased in edible gummy fetuses and real human skulls, and making full album covers of classics like Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, rather than creating anything remotely musically pleasing. Now, on their fourteenth studio album Oczy Mlody, and their first record of original material in four years, the band seems more lost in their own haze than ever.
The album starts off well enough: the two-minute instrumental intro and the actual first song “How??” are calm, soothing and surprisingly focused. After that the album starts to immediately unravel, becoming mindless, endless drone. The album clocks at few minutes under an hour, but feels like an eternity, like a time-distorting bad trip. “There Should Be Unicorns” features an intro over one minute long before properly starting, after which the song contains two verses and two choruses, musically indistinguishable and lyrically separated by only few words. The song has material for minute and a half but lasts for almost six. The same problem plagues the whole album: every song outstays their welcome by roughly half their length. “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” continues an aimless drone for seven and half minutes without going anywhere. It’s like the band ran out of time and released the ambient backing tracks without finishing the actual songs. And I’m not saying that just making music out of noise is somehow bad. Noise rock is a genre of its own, and many of the artists associated with noise or just sound of endless drone, such as Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine or Lightning Bolt, make tremendous use of their medium. Flaming Lips just seems to make noise without comprehending its point, like a parrot mimicking words without actually understanding the meaning.
One of the few exceptions on the album is “One Night When Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill”, which despite its six minute length manages to actually evolve and change during its runtime, resembling a finished piece of music. Similarly, “Almost Home (Blisko Domu)” features actual melodies and drum beats. The fact that these need to be mentioned as defining features setting the track apart from the rest of the album probably tells how close this album is to being an hour of distorted hospital flatline.
I really like the band’s previous material. The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, even the kind of unfocused 2006 album At War With the Mystics, and the brick too dense to listen through in one sitting that was 2009’s Embryonic. Oczy Mlody is where I draw the line: it is just far too long and contains far too little of anything of value. By now the band seems to exists solely in their own disconnected psychedelic cloud, being far beyond human contact to create anything remotely relatable.