After a series of albums with high profile guests and off the wall themes, The Flaming Lips return to their roots with a beautiful, collection of psychedelic wonderment on their new album Oczy Mlody. While the band has spent the last couple of years working off and on with Miley Cyrus, they finally found time to create some fresh tunes of their very own. This is their first album since since their long time drummer Kliph Scurlock left the band over creative and personal differences, and while The Flaming Lips are sure to miss his thunder during their live shows, their studio efforts on this disc show the band ready to make some eloquent music.
Oczy Mlody is a dreamlike return to the pop psychedelia that marked the band’s beloved middle period, recalling classic albums like The Soft Bulletin. The disc kicks off with the title track, a mellow instrumental meditation that features as many of Flips beloved trademarks: Looping percussion, droning mid range art noise and a delicate melody that lights the path to the next next phase. The melody flattens into the opening strain of the second track, “How??,” before the always confounding Wayne Coyne makes his first vocal declarations. A loving, tranquil surrealism in the music and his intonations belie the confrontational tone of his actual words in a weary look at the state of the world around us.
The Flaming Lips are at their best when they merge challenging thoughts with undeniable beauty, and on “There Should Be Unicorns,” they craft a perfect picture of their work. Punctuated by a rousing spoken word outro by musician/comedian Reggie Watts. Reminding us that even the most mythical of beasts are still just beasts, beholden to their natures. More than just the frontman of the band, Coyne, for better or worse, personifies the band for most fans and his struggle with the way things are and they ways he wishes it was permeates the entirety of Oczy Mlody. On “Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young),” even the promise of the new morning being born fade far too quickly as the thoughts of reality erode hope.
Though they receive nowhere near as much attention in the media as their enigmatic frontman, Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins are the architects of the lush soundscapes that can hypnotize or obliterate the consciousness of listeners. Sparse instrumentals like “Nigdy Nie (Never No)” show what they can do on their own, but when the band is all together in intention as on “Galaxy I Sink” and the wonderfully revelation that is “One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill”, The Flaming Lips are firing on all cylinders. By maintaining a droning and languid tone, the Flips moments of bombast and crescendos gain more importance. That a band so well known for their love of excess can find such contentment and creativity in the quiet moments truly speaks volumes for their range and skill.
Much has been made about The Flaming Lips recent partnership with singer and media lightning rod Miley Cyrus. From confounding live performances to what some fans feel is a sublimation of the Flips aesthetic, there have been prevalent fears that the days of the wildly idiosyncratic nature of the band was fading. Oczy Mlody feels like a repudiation of that mindset from the band, while closing song, “We A Family,” features a prototypical mix of strings and drum machines and a expansive and truly beautiful guest appearance from their wildly famous friend. The song touches on themes of family and unity, speaking towards the relationship between the artistic collaborators and life itself. Their shared chuckle as the album closes with their declaration of mutual admiration is a perfect way to quell any fears that The Flaming Lips are anyone’s backing band.
For more than three decades The Flaming Lips have been evolving. Each new album sees them adding a new wrinkle to their very core concept. While a case could be made for Oczy Mlody being a step backward musically, their return to their most dreamlike sound is accompanied by a much sharper lyrical vision and a far defter hand in their execution. It is safe to assume that there are still plenty of twists and turns and disquieting moments ahead, but for now they seem content to revisit their more spacey side with the far steadier hand that wisdom provides us all.
We have all wished we could face the problems of the past with the knowledge of the present. The Flaming Lips show on this amazing release that, musically at least, you can go home again, and that when you get there you can do some incredible things with what you learned along the way.