Sometimes, the best kind of music doesn’t make sense. The Flaming Lips are veterans of testing the capabilities of listeners to piece together cohesion out of collages of musical chaos. The Oklahoma natives have risen to their place as neo-psychedelic demigods because of our consistent inability to understand them. In their double album, Embryonic, this competition of The Flaming Lips vs. Us is taken to all new heights.
While double albums can generally be used as a way to weave in unifying musical and lyrical concepts, in their latest release Wayne Coyne and the crew create a 70-minute free-for-all, where each sound is more surprising than the last.
Unlike Soft Bulletin’s “Waitin’ for a Superman” or Yoshimi’s “Do You Realize??,” Embryonic lacks a catchy, pop-infused stand-out single. But that’s what makes it such a brilliant record. Each song flows seamlessly into the next in a flurry of synth explosions, vibraphone reverberations, guitar wails and effect-laden cymbal crashes. The album begs to be misunderstood holistically, and Coyne’s haunting choral vocal lines and abstract lyrics only add to the feeling of beautiful confusion. Among the musical guests are Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and MGMT; in both cases the artists seem to be pushing themselves, with Coyne’s guidance, beyond the boundaries in which they are usually confined.
This album is a reminder of what music can be if we stop believing that it has to be concrete. After dabbling in making sense for a few years, The Flaming Lips are back to show what they are truly capable of — confusing the hell out of us and leaving us begging for more.