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CD Review: The Flaming Lips

BY ALISSA ROSEN | OCTOBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Flaming Lips: Embryonic
**** out of *****

Be cautious, these lips are flaming and fueling the fire one masterpiece after the next. The Flaming Lips’ 12th album and first double LP, Embryonic, is a screaming symphony of strange, seductive, staggering sounds. Embryonic gives the group the freedom to flourish and remain unrestricted, releasing a range of psychedelic phenomenon’s and futuristic fascinations. It can be difficult to deliver a double LP that is satisfying from start to finish, but Embryonic does not dilute the disc with unnecessary filler or ominous overloading.

Embryonic’s first track, “Convinced of the Hex” is an explosive start to the album. The tune emotes dark feelings of drudgery and defeat, while at the same time discussing a duo’s differing belief system. The next song on the track, “The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine,” delves into the topic of nature versus technology. Lead singer Wayne Coyne sings, “Why / Why do we feel / To try to find real / Just to meet the machine,” discussing the power these machines have and stopping the search for their significance. He tells listeners to “look up at the machine” and accept our incapabilities.

The basis of Embryonic is the nature of evil. The song “Evil” is slow and lethargic and is full of regret and reflection. Coyne’s voice comes across as shaky and almost on the verge of tears as he sings, “I wish I could go back / Back in time / I would have warned you / Those people are evil.” He exposes the evil in even the gentlest beings of nature. “If,” a tune similar to a lullaby, follows and is sung by Steven Drozd. The track continues the story that people can choose to be malicious or they can decide to be meek. And as with the other songs on Embryonic, both “Your Bats” and “See the Leaves” bring a greater understanding on the nature of evil by conveying that it is a necessity of life.

While that theme may be repeated throughout the album, the song “I Can Be a Frog,” inserts a ludicrous branch from Embryonic’s theme. A laugh and mystical melodies lead into Coyne reciting, “I can be a bat / I can be a bear / Or I can be a cat,” while Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O. erupts with wild sounds of the named creatures. MGMT is also featured on the album in the song “Worm Mountain,” a squirming sequence of drums, guitar, and thickening tambourine.

Another track on Embryonic, “Powerless,” is an appropriate name because of its dark and dramatic delivery. It encompasses one of the most extensive guitar solos that the Flaming Lips has yet played.

The album’s final track, “Watching the Planets,” is a collaboration of vocals from Coyne, Karen O., and Drozd. It has an epic array of instrumentals and a demanding tone of lyrics, as well as a monumental music video.

In the video, Coynes is in a colossal bubble, but not the usual see-through plastic kind. This time, his bubble is covered in faux fox fur and at the basic level is meant to resemble a vagina. If that seems strange, the psuedo-female genital is carried by a crowd of naked cyclists up Mount Tabor in Portland, Ore.

Embryonic exceeds all expectations. The Flaming Lips delivers a musically mature album that not only has a strong story line but is full of tunes worth listening to on repeat.

Alissa’s Picks: “Silver Trembling Hands” and “Convinced of the Hex”


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