The Flaming Lips Remain Trippy on ‘Oczy Mlody’
The Flaming Lips return after more than a two-year hiatus with ‘Oczy Mlody,’ yet another intriguing, if weird, addition to their distinct discography.
Experimental rock band The Flaming Lips don’t sell particularly well. Did they ever? The answer is a resounding no. To date, the RIAA has certified just one TFL album: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot. Regardless, the band is prolific, continuing to push boundaries musically. After a two-year hiatus – With a Little Help From my Fwends, released in late 2014 – TFL return with new album, Oczy Mlody.
“Oczy Mlody” fittingly initiates the album of the same name. Instrumental, “Oczy Mlody” immerses the listener into a contemporary minimalist-driven sound. “How??” opens enigmatically – shocker. A spacy joint, “How??” sounds very druggy, embracing psychedelia. Unique lyrically, though not deep, frontman Wayne Coyne kicks things off interestingly:
“White trash rednecks, earthworms eat the ground / Legalize it, every drug right now.”
A question mark of question marks, the mysteriousness of “Oczy Mlody” is what makes it a memorable highlight. The Flaming Lips are true to themselves.
If nothing else, follow-up “There Should Be Unicorns” is groovy. It’s also bizarre, featuring a spoken word outro by Reggie Watts. The introduction lasts longer than a minute in duration. Coyne enters in afterward, singing as chill as ever. Given the combination of a consistent rhythmic groove and laid-back, lush vocals, “There Should Be Unicorns” is oxymoronic. Ultimately, the sound is firmly planted in psychedelic, 60s rock.
“Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)”
“Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)” sounds groovy from the jump. The record blends a dash of urban music and the psychedelic rock the band thrives on. The piano sound stands out. Notably, it is drenched in effects, with reverb among them. Lyrically, “Sunrise” covers the sunrise, the sunbeams, and the sunset on respective verses. Each shows the progression of age, with youth dying with each successive verse. Disheartening perhaps, “Sunrise” is among the crème de la crème.
“Nigdy Nie (Never No)” is limited lyrically, perhaps the understatement of the year. The M.O. isn’t lyrical depth, but more the vibe – the ambiance. As always, The Flaming Lips achieve this given the unique, throwback production work. Another instrumentally-driven record, the music speaks for itself, without making “Nigdy Nie” a song that would receive repeated spins on Oczy Mlody.
“Galaxy I Sink” features more lyrical content to match the distinct sounds. As always, Coyne sings in an undertone, delivering a cool, calm, and trippy vibe. While “Galaxy I Sink” initially seems as if it going to be predictable, a distinct switch of pace and lush orchestrations eliminate such predictability. After growing grandiose with the aforementioned, The Flaming Lips bring the intensity back down.
“One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill”
“One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill” earns the best song title of the album. Like the majority of songs on Oczy Mlody, groove is king. In addition to signature TFL cues, there’s a distinct dash of hip-hop – the band puts some stank on it. No, it isn’t trap by any means, but there’s a sense of experimentation worth noting. The lyrical content is also ambitious, as Coyne imparts the ultimate tall tale:
“One night while hunting for faeries / and witches and wizards to kill / I came across a hole in a tree in the forest / I climbed inside the tree hole with small fear and loaded my gun / I should have heeded that small fear / I walked towards the wizard’s cave shooting to / Shoot out his wizard brains…”
“Do Glowy” segues from “One Night,” with its strongest attributes being the production work. Coyne’s vocals are drenched in effects, establishing a trippy vibe. The lyrics are generally secondary to the sounds here, but “Do Glowy” possesses its poetic moments…or semi-poetic moments. The wordplay – “doing” verses “dewing” – is worth something.
“Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes”
“Have you ever seen someone die / In the summertime, in the summertime?”
That is the question Coyne asks on “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes.” “Demon Eyes” is the lengthiest song of Oczy Mlody, clocking in at seven and half minutes. Despite its ambitious length, it ranks among the most intriguing listens. Expectedly, given TFL’s penchant for being over-the-top, there are frogs ribbitting. It would’ve been disappointing without them, sigh. “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” masterfully avoids predictability – save for those frogs – by offering contrasting sections. The verses, chorus, and bridge are all separate entities in effect.
A sick groove anchors “The Castle” down. This hails directly from the modern play book: hip-hop and urban contemporary. Featuring excellent vocal production, the use of reverb and supporting vocals establishes the chill vibe. As always, vibe is everything. Approached narratively, each verse adds something different, while each chorus is varied. “The Castle” represents one of the better instances of songwriting on Oczy Mlody.
Penultimate cut “Almost Home (Blisko Domu)” follows a juggernaut in “The Castle,” one of the best songs of the album. After an extended, predictable intro (“Oh, we’re almost home”), the verses elevate the meat of the song. With the arrival of said verses also comes a chance of pace stylistically, a staple of The Flaming Lips on this particular project.
“We a Famly”
“We a Famly” closes Oczy Mlody. The record opens with loopy synths that sound as if they were taken straight out of a video game. These solidify the psychedelic rock, cementing the 60s-throwback vibe. Ultimately, “Famly” uses an excellent blend of the arpeggiated synths with gritty guitar (and synths) and pummeling drums. Intially, Coyne’s voice sounds clear before the vocal effects are kicked up a couple of notches. Miley Cyrus appears, adding her distinct pipes to an undeniably weird, yet jubilant song. Captivating closer to say the least.
All in all, a book could be written about any The Flaming Lips album. The same can be said of Oczy Mlody, which is an incredibly unique effort. This isn’t TFL’s best album or most memorable, but it fits their colorful, experimental discography without a hitch. Even if Oczy Mlody is no masterpiece, it is sure to be among the more distinct efforts of 2017, even though it’s only mid-January.
Gems: “How??,” “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young),” “One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill,” “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” & “The Castle”