by Rob Cleveland
The Flaming Lips have managed to keep the blood and guts of their future-heads intact for 30+ years, pulsing their egos in a blender, turning it up to the maximum speed, and holding the lid down tight. Oczy Mlody is the latest Lips sensation (and proper full-length release to follow-up 2013’s The Terror). The album orbits Yoshimi, The Soft Bulletin, and even chunks of The Terror, but not without helplessly entering another dimension for a brief look around.
The freaks have crash-landed their spacecraft in uncharted territory, inside a gated community where unicorns, frog dust, faeries, witches and wizards are bountiful, and a powerful new party drug called Oczy Mlody sends you all the way back to your fondest childhood state: “The drug uses your own sub-conscious memories and transports you to your perfect childhood happy mind, and everyone has sex while riding unicorns…”[sic]. Wayne Coyne describes the title as one that’s influenced by “cool sounding Polish words,” culled from a book called “Blisko Domu,” written by one Erskine Caldwell. Watch the explanation of sorts, and hear Coyne’s take on the title.
The album disembarks with “Oczy Mlody,” the instrumental/self-titled opener, initiating the space-quest with a tantalizing drum-machine-sequence, panting bass fixtures, celestial guitars, and clotted synths, all coming free from entanglement—much like a slinky would.
Next up, “How??” is the hotline number for another one of Coyne’s episodic, existential dilemmas; legitimizing frustrations behind the attempt to convey a message with complex emotions loaded like a gun. Coyne has said in the past, “You write songs about things that you can’t control.” The admission of powerlessness and humility is what makes this one of the more honest tracks the Lips have written in a while.
The fact (alone) that the album circumambulates some of the fonder moments on Yoshimi, The Soft Bulletin, and The Terror is enough for me to go ahead and assume that it’s never safe to underestimate The Lips. I mean, c’mon… What other religious extravaganza can you find to host a figurehead who’ll show up, center stage, riding a fuckin’ unicorn in 2017? Find me another band! If Wayne Coyne’s having a mid-life-crisis, he’s chosen Unicorns over motorcycles, and… I’m good with that! Supposedly, they’re safer. Besides, they already went through a whole motorcycle phase, so no use getting behind that again.
“There Should Be Unicorns” is a light-hearted follow-up, introducing one loopy party planner’s candy-colored list of requests. Reggie Watt’s disembodied, demon-bent narration finds itself omnipotent, in the land of Coyne and his strange Utopic monologue:
“At first there should be unicorns. The ones with the purple eyes not the ones with green eyes. Whatever they give them, they shit everywhere. And it would be great if the moon was almost down... in a very red/orange state... Let’s leave it like that for at least three hours… Hovering just above the horizon. And if the police show up we will give them so much money that they can retire from their shitty, violent jobs and live the greatest life they’ve ever lived. And we will be high. And the love generator will be turned up to its maximum. And we’ll get higher when, at last, the sun comes up in the morning and we will collapse under the weight of the ancient earth. And it will be inside me and it will be inside you... and it will be the end of the world and the beginning of a new love...”
A digital watch beeps on the track for old-time sake, and we’re onto “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young),” a symphonic three-part flashback to The Soft Bulletin. The Sunrise music video was a friendly reminder that the Lips are still the provocative bunch we know and love, still just as free-spirited and far out—what with all the parallels to the sun and sustenance of life via drippy, glowy, embryonic imagery, and a time-lapse of clouds budging over for the sun.
David Fridmann has managed to produce another intoxicating Lips record that dodges certain expectations, and is just . . . out there! The kitschier aspects of the album only induce more nostalgia; it’s like trying to cut one of Cerberus’ heads off! It’s a blissful, beastly and fantastical daydream of a record. Does anyone else wonder what happens when you cue this sucker up to A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The 1999 adaption with Christian Bale and Michelle Pfeiffer? No?
“The Castle” comes later, after all the Witch-hunting and milling about with frogs, etc. And by that time, The Flaming Lips (initially off to see the Wizard) have discovered the Wizard to be a false-god, when the true “Wizard” was death all along. This may be the most euphoric number on the record (ironically), aside from “We A Family” (feat. Miley Cyrus) of course. “The Castle” is a bittersweet acknowledgement of death and powering through loss, all written after The Flaming Lips lost another good friend to suicide. Here’s what Wayne had to say about that (in an open letter/musings of Oczy Mlody): “It allowed me to sing these utterly silly romantic lyrics as a way of masking something horrible and brutal and fucked up and unspeakable . . . it’s a motherfucker.” The slowed down drum machine technique, albeit subtler, echoes “The Spiderbite Song,” successfully turning me back in time to my 15th Birthday… The day I received two gifts that I wouldn’t soon forget: Animals by Pink Floyd, and The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. The rest was history.
Speaking of which, not a bad idea to listen to “soundtrack from the film MORE played and composed by pink floyd” and Oczy Mlody back to back. Then, you may as well throw on LONG.LIVE.A$AP, by A$AP Rocky, and “Kill your rock n roll.. Motherfuckin’ hip-hop sound.” Turns out, Wayne Coyne is also an A$AP fanboy: “When asked (about our newest album Oczy Mlody) what does your new stuff sound like..?? My current response has been that it sounds like Syd Barrett meets A$AP Rocky and they get trapped in a fairy tale from the future.”
Going back in time for a spell, I imagine the lyric in “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young),” to be a lot like The Flaming Lips’ creative process: “The machine that brings me joy/ Now it’s just a stupid toy.” The minute they become bored with existing material, or fidgeting with the same knobs on stage—every night for months on end—they destroy their model-toy-castle and return to the studio to put the pieces back together (sans instructions). Over time, it seems they never cease to reinvent themselves, or say “Yes, yes, yes” to “killing the ego tonight” or “No, no, no, I got no secrets.” Go ahead and collaborate with A$AP Rocky for your next record if you want… Fine by me. It’s your party! All I have to say about that is—long live The Flaming Lips!