Drawing from acid-infused hits of the 1960s and ’70s, the Flaming Lips found their way into limelight fame during the late 1990s with The Soft Bulletin. However, on their latest album Oczy Mlody, the Lips’ greatest strength becomes their downfall, spiraling the band into a monotonous pattern even the most fervent of fans will struggle with.
Upon the critical and commercial success of their 1999 masterpiece The Soft Bulletin, The Flaming Lips quickly became the new torchbearers of the psychedelic genre. Taking influences from Pink Floyd, the Doors and Can, the group introduced pop and philosophy into psychedelia, developed a sound of their own and hit their peak with 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Fifteen years later, the group has made some controversial choices, like teaming up with former Disney star Miley Cyrus and delving deeper into new instrumental territory on their latest record.
The Lips make a bold statement right from the offset by choosing a completely instrumental track to headline their album. Taking its name from the record’s Polish title, “Oczy Mlody” makes almost no sense as a song. The phrase translates as “eyes of the young,” but the cut rambles, heading in no clear direction and ending up as an adequate song at best.
Oczy Mlody’s aimless monotony plagues the entire release, with each song coming across as another wave in an ocean of unremarkable tracks. The album’s fourth song,
“Sunrise (Eyes of the Sun),” attempts to change up the mood with a wider variety of sounds, but everything the Lips throw at the listener feels more like a 10-car pile up on the highway than a beautifully woven piece of music.
The record’s third track, “There Should Be Unicorns,” carries the most potential of any on the album. Combining the talents of the Lips with those of Reggie Watts, the premise of the track is to take two artists that thrive on the strange and exciting and build something only the two parties could create together. However, Watts’ influence is almost unnoticeable under the blare of droning bass and synths on the song, resulting in another potentially promising but wasted effort.
“There Should Be Unicorns” is also an example of how nonsensical lead singer Wayne Coyne’s lyrics can be. As Coyne croons, he sings “Yeah, there should be day glow strippers, ones from the Amazon, some edible butterflies, we put ketchup on.” The Flaming Lips have always been a concept-driven band, building their music on instrumentation and creating an experience rather than emphasizing poetic lyrics, but lines like this have no place in almost any genre of music.
The only track that stands out amongst the sea of mediocrity is “How??,” likely because it sounds like a parody of the entire album. Coyne himself stated in an interview with Future Heart that the lyrics are supposed to be “stream of consciousness emotional syllables,” but some of his word choices go beyond any semblance of reason, for example when Coyne sings “Back when we were young, we killed everyone, if they fucked us, with our baby guns.” Coyne’s lyrics are dominated by a droning and fuzzy bass that is beyond obnoxious. It’s actually a bit comical.
I would not recommend that anyone try out this album. Long time Flaming Lips fans will be left wondering what happened to the potential of their previous LP, The Terror, while any new listeners will be perplexed with what Coyne and company call music. This is an overproduced long shot from what the Lips were and leaves the listener with nothing but disappointment.