By Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer
The Flaming Lips, a band that has been almost worshipped by its cult following once again makes a quiet splash with the release of its new album “Oczy Mlody” on Jan. 13.
The band, which formed in 1986, has undergone plenty of artistic exploration and sound evolution. Each album is a unique journey that synthesizes various philosophical elements with styles of rock music.
For example, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” one of their early 2000s albums, coupled philosophically absurdist themes with a classic rock sound. Similarly their 2009 album, “Embryonic,” combines religious overtones with harsh noise to create a jarring experience.
“Oczy Mlody,” while keeping with band mainstays like bizarre lyrics and an enveloping sound, diverged as all their albums have from previous endeavors.
The experience of listening to their latest work can best be summed up as psychedelic. While not unusual for The Flaming Lips, this tone is meant to paint a picture for the listener of the simple beauty of the world, specifically natural beauty.
The overall theme is best understood in the album’s opening track of the same name. The track starts out slow with a unique rhythm and gradually develops into a larger more complicated sound. This opens the listener up to the idea of beauty being simplistic.
This message is prevalent throughout the album, with songs like “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)” exemplifying the idea of beauty. For example, “Oh, sun/ I see you happy” is a simplistic line that highlights their lyrical prowess.
The strength of the album is that of a seamless transition. If the listener starts “Oczy Mlody” and ends on “We a Famly” as intended, then the album feels like one song stretched into a 58 minute album.
While concept albums seem to be a hot commodity as of late, The Flaming Lips lyrically do not have a central theme. Their music has a similar sound from song to song, but lyrically each song focuses on a different subject, from science fiction to fantasy.
Overall, the lyrics do not build off one another, completely failing to work towards a message. This album is musically a concept album, but lyrically dissonant.
Compared to their previous work, “Oczy Mlody” sounds like it lacks a purpose to the madness. While prior work is similarly chaotic, this album lacks a clear direction and suffers because of that.
However, there are problems with this format. The album lacks any real diversity, the lyrics are so abstract that it would take hours to figure out the meaning of them and the sound, while varied, seems oddly similar from one track to the next.
The heaviest criticism of the album I have would be the lyrics. In the past, the Flaming Lips operated somewhere between stupidly entertaining and existentially dreadful. In “Oczy Mlody,” their lyrics operate in the area of stupidly dreadful.
The song that demonstrates this point the most is “There Should Be Unicorns.” Which has a beautiful background, but the song’s lyrics mar the music the band creates. The most repeated line is “Yeah, there should be unicorns/The ones with the purple eyes.” which is great, but why purple eyes?
This point is never made significant, it is just argued that unicorns with purple eyes are the ones desired, not unicorns with green eyes. A point that is never made clear as to why, The song is devoid of a rhyming structure, the syllable counts per line range anywhere from four syllables to fifteen, so as far as a lyrical structure the song makes little sense.
It can be argued that the lyrics are meant to be simple to aid in the theme of simplistic beauty. However, the lyrics sparingly mention nature or scenery and instead opt to focus on repetition of a phrase with little emphasis on why that phrase matters. Which while the repetition of lyrics is simple, it is not effective.
The Flaming Lips are difficult to describe with words. The feeling that their music gives the listener is something that must be heard to be understood. It’s almost impossible to describe the details of their albums because they truly are an experience. The best way to explain these feelings is through metaphors, but even then that falls short of capturing the full scope of their work.
Overall, if the listener disregards the lyrics, this album is certainly worth a listen. However, whether or not it is worth buying is questionable. It isn’t up to scratch with previous works by The Flaming Lips, but it provides wonderful background music for unwinding after a stressful day of schoolwork.