The Flaming Lips long ago earned their right to do what they like – and to (no doubt) always like what they do. No mean feat considering they’ve stayed on a major label and stayed a cult-act. Theirs is a unique story. But somewhere in there is a genuine skill for creating weird, hypnotic psychedelic haze, and not only that – for being able to cut through said haze with pretty pop melodies. Oczy Mlody features some of the band’s prettiest melodies in a decade and a half, shimmering, shiny pop traces hiding in plain (aural) sight within the gauzy, gaudy textures of their brand of indie-pop meets psychedelic rock.
I’ve enjoyed a lot of the recent Flaming Lips material but they were stretching too far with vanity projects, the Miley Cyrus association, full album cover projects, tour EPs and such…
You can hear the residual charms of Clouds Taste Metallic and The Soft Bulletin here. You can also hear them through a thin filter of hip-hop. Last album proper, The Terror (2013) was magnificent by the way, so it’s not like the Lips were completely lost, more a case of it almost seeming like they were at pains to be weird, when it’s usually come naturally. And that’s the magic of Oczy Mlody – Syd Barrett’s spirit hovers over, the bubbling, gurgling lines of nightmares smoothed over continue to pulse and surge beneath and we get something of the feel of late-90s trip-hop. Well, that’s been a hangover of sorts since the Lips’ twin breakthrough of 1999’s Soft Bulletin and 2002’s career-making, stadium/festival-placing Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. This is, obviously an older, wearier Flaming Lips but it’s also a version of the band that is circling around the sound of those two albums without consciously repeating anything the band has done before.
I’m sure there’ll be fans disappointed with this – there are fans disappointed with every Flaming Lips album (again, that’s somehow part of the magic, part of the ‘charm’ of this band) – but Oczy Mlody most lucidly explores the dreamscape ambience and modulating pop songs that have been at the core of any and every great Lips album. And yet it all feels fresh enough, in fact for many it’ll feel like a brand new start – either the first time enjoying the band in a while or at least the first time hearing something resembling a pop melody on a Flaming Lips record. That other great touchstone for this band (the “soundtrack” years of a post-Syd Barrett/pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd) is obvious here too – most overtly on the sprawling mini-epic, Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes, but also on tracks like Galaxy I Sink, a sort of space-age gunslinger ballad, and the most Yoshimi-sounding pop-song-sliver-encased-in-ethereal-trip-hop-darkness: There Should Be Unicorns.