What a long strange trip it’s been for Oklomaha’s The Flaming Lips.
At the start of their journey there were primitive anarchic splodges of shambolic, psychedelic cacophony and disintegrating shards of brain scan feedback. This was most notable on their fabulously riotous early nineties albums such as Transmissions from the Satellite Heart and Oh My Gawd.
They now find themselves part of the mainstream, well sort of.
In a world that is quite obviously insane and totally preposterous I suppose it should only be right and proper that Lips frontman Wayne Coyne is regarded as our bonkers saviour.
Let’s face it, rather him than Chris Martin or Ed Sheeran. Madness over sanitised sanity any day.
Anyway he’s not mad he’s just got an imagination that is bigger than a massively big tree with a six lane highway that’s been carved through it.
Think Brian Wilson meets Paul McCartney in a drugs factory. Think outside the box of frogs. He’s merely emancipated himself from mental slavery and got lost in the Strawberry Fields of the Nephilim, as you do.
Let’s not forget the band’s unsung heroes Steven Drozd, a name that sounds spookily a bit like an android, and Michael Ivins. These quietly loyal men at the back, whose melodic sensibilities have repeatedly come to the fore, have formed with Coyne a formidable song writing partnership.
So here we have another collection of loony tunes to devour, digest and discuss.
Oczy Mlody comes luke warm on the heels of the mildy entertaining Terror, and the awful Embryonic.
Over the last few years Wayne has spread his love too thinly, collaborations with Miley Cyrus, Kesha, Tame Impala and basically anybody he meets in a studio with a joint. This has been much to the detriment of the band he fronts.
There have been far too many side projects to distract from his primary directive- to blow peoples minds with the Flaming Lips.
I am happy to report that we’re on course again. This is the best Flaming Lips release since Yoshimi and those evil bastard robots grrr grrr.
It’s a relatively subdued album but absolutely littered with hooks, innocent magic, solemnity and gorgeousness. In the distance Death stands silently with a big scythe in one hand and a copy of Pet Sounds in the other.
Opening with glacial perfection the instrumental title track meanders gently into How?? an absolute Lips classic. Wayne’s vocals here are beauty personified. This will take the place of Do You Realise in their canon of crowd pleasing, heart string tuggers.
There Should Be Unicorns is a darkly hypnotic piece of electronica, with a haunting tracked vocal. Toward the end a scary Darth Vader voice speaks about swans and shit and I hastily conclude this is the best Lips track I have ever heard.
Sunrise and Nigdy Nie continue the lovely ethereal vibe. One Night While Hunting For Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill, is as mad as its title suggests. Imagine a skeletal folk song from an alternative Cornish universe, where a confused semi naked Poldark meets Dr Timothy Leary.
Listening to the Frogs with Demon’s Eyes similarly morphs into a hallucinatory experience. Epic in scope and heaven on headphones, whilst on a train heading into St Pancras railway station at four in the morning.
The Castle is catchy-catchy pop. It sleepwalks on candyfloss, it’s a sexy rumination featuring mushrooms, bumble bees and dragons and should come with a free Arthur Rackham print.
We a Family closes on a high. It’s an anthemic little excursion; walking boots not required.
Back on track then. Where on Earth (or any other planet ) they go next is anybody’s guess. But be assured the trip is definitely not over yet. Tickets please.
These are some of The Flaming Lips best songs of their long career, don’t take my word for it, those evil robots are coming to get you. Yeah.
Words by John Haylock