ALBUM REVIEW: The Flaming Lips Embryonic

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THE FLAMING LIPS
Embryonic
(Warner Bros.)

The Flaming Lips are one of those bands you first heard about back in high school from the cooler kids who hung around in skinny jeans and wore Fugazi T-shirts. “You’ve gotta check em out man, it’s like Floyd but like… weirder.” You could never tell if they were telling you this to prove how much more music they knew about; or if it was more like a passing of the torch, a sacred gift from one generation of wouldbe hipsters to the next. Seeing as how I am currently in high school, take it from me that not much has changed. Breaking into the mainstream in 1993 with “She Don’t Use Jelly” off the album Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, they were instantly alt-rock darlings, pulled along by various Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvanas, but never quite abandoning their allegiance to the underground. After all, this is the same Flaming Lips who would release an album that needed four boomboxes all playing simultaneously just to be listened to properly, or staged massive parking lot concerts, with frontman Wayne Coyne conducting an orchestra of car stereos. This is the Flaming Lips that I missed out on due to the fact that, well,  I was just being born at the time. Thankfully, this is The Flaming Lips that have returned with the terrifying acid trip they have named Embryonic. At first listen, the album is a blinding, distorted mess. It just rushes by, in a swirl of screams, noise and bloody chaos. The imagery of the lyrics is much darker than on the last few albums, abandoning the blissed-out realms they created on Yoshimi Vs. The Pink Robots and At War With The Mystics. However, after a few listens the brilliance of the double album shows its nightmarish self. It could be compared to what Radiohead, that other psychedelic standby of the 90’s, did with their “radical new direction CD” Kid A. Gone are the poppy hooks, replaced by slicing guitars and shrieks of feedback. Wayne’s voice is mixed low and is almost constantly drenched in ripples of echo, repeating over itself again and again. All of this creates a kind of ambient sense of dread and mystery. This isn’t a record to just pull out your favorite songs and stick them on a mixtape, this is a work to be listened to in its entirety, start to finish. Like old Pink Floyd albums, the flow of the songs taken as a whole is the point. Just let the CD wash over you and meet me on the dark side of the moon. — JAMIE DAVIS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamie Davis is a senior at Kimberton Waldorf High School.  He enjoys Blink-182 more than any Thom Yorke fan should.

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