The Flaming Lips: Embryonic

RIYL: Beck, early ’70s Miles Davis, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd

It would be far too easy to call the Flaming Lips’ new album Embryonic “trippy.” Any of the albums they’ve released over the past decade could fit that description. But as it stands, the 18-track double disc affair is in fact pretty far out, even for the Lips. Drawing from the sound palettes of early ‘70s Miles Davis (the instrumental “Scorpio Sword” is particularly reminiscent of the edge-of-insanity performances that marked the days when Chick Corea and Tony Williams pushed Miles into serious avant garde territory) and pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd (think of Floyd’s soundtrack work on More), Wayne Coyne and crew have woven a heavy, dynamic soundscape that works best as a piece.


Indeed, few songs stand out from the whole, one of the exceptions being the typically novel “I Can Be a Frog,” which is impossible to hear without thinking of its accompanying video. And while Wayne’s voice has taken a beating over the years, he sings to his strengths and lets the fuzzed-out guitars and vintage electric piano sounds take center stage throughout the disc. In fact, in most cases vocals are mixed about equally with the rest of the instruments, avoiding pop melodies and song structure altogether.

This very well could be the greatest album the Flaming Lips have concocted to date, though there’s so much happening here that it might take a few years to sink in. The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots can retain popular favor in the meantime, but Embryonic is bound to fascinate and confound for years to come. (Warner Bros. 2009)

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