The Flaming Lips’ new Oczy Mlody album brings a dense modern perspective to mythic psychedelia

Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips (George Salisbury / provided)

Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips (George Salisbury / provided)

No, that’s not some new Bun B music rattling the car stereo; it’s The Flaming Lips’ 15th full-length studio release featuring plenty of songs that legitimately bang.

Oczy Mlody, set to be released Friday, does not find the Oklahoma City-based psychedelic rock band doing its best impression of the era’s trendiest trap or electronic music, nor is it even an attempt to do so. Despite the deep, meaty, low-frequency bass that permeates the record, The Lips’ newest effort is more of an ethereal shower than a club-thumping thunderstorm.

Instead, the band utilizes descending bass, drum machines and other synthetic sounds to tell a dreamy, light and futuristic fairy tale. Images of unicorns, wizards, fairies, frogs and space help populate Oczy Mlody’s out-of-body utopia.

Make no mistake, though. Fans are going to want to make sure their headphones or whatever listening apparatus they are using to play the new album are equipped to handle the full scope of The Lips’ bass because the element has never before taken such prominence in the band’s music.

The title song, a nearly three-minute instrumental track that kicks off the record, sets an auditory tone that should have been echoed throughout the project. Listeners find themselves somewhere between a video game score and a Stanley Kubrick film with a pleasant and relaxing melody fleshed out with dense bass.

The intro transitions seamlessly into “How,” the album’s most immediately impactful tune. When it’s said that Oczy Mlody can legitimately bang, this is one of the songs that come to mind. Band cofounder and frontman and local creative stalwart Wayne Coyne wastes no time in grabbing attention, starting off with the lyrics, “White trash rednecks, earthworms eat the ground. Legalize it, every drug, right now.”

“How” also signals the first time on the project the band plays with vocal distortions. That is not a new thing for the Lips, but it pulls off the effect with varying degrees of success on Oczy Mlody. On this song, however, it adds another aural layer to its visceral lyrics.

The vocal distortions continue on “There Should Be Unicorns,” which seems to describe the band’s idealistic dream world. The Lips, though playing with very low bass frequencies and other effects with great freedom, sound impressively inspired. There’s a definite method to the madness. However, that sense of purpose wanes later in the tracklist.  “Nigdy Nie (Never No)” and “Do Glowy” sound more like experimentation than vision-driven recording.

“One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill” is a strong exception on the album’s latter half and successfully balances eccentricity with musical palatability, due in part to its many layers to be mined through.

“The Castle,” Oczy Mlody’s delicate and catchy lead single, which is subtly comparable to the sound of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, is another high point near the album’s close.

“We a Family” closes the project with a surprise  appearance by pal, musician and frequent Lips collaborator Miley Cyrus. At times, the tune gets too cutesy with high-pitched vocals and general mushiness, but the anthemic friend tribute carries a positive vibe a lot of listeners will find attractive.

Oczy Mlody is not an album for everyone, but when have The Lips ever been bound to the constraints of mass appeal? On this project, the bold union of mythical psychedelia with aggressive, rumbling bass hits more than it misses.

 

Print headline: Electric enchantment, The Flaming Lips bring mythic psychedelia into the future with new studio album Oczy Mlody.

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