Rabbits Full of Magic

10 November 2009

 

Embryonic



Ever since I heard "Bad Days" on the end of the Batman Forever soundtrack when I was 14 I knew that I would love the Flaming Lips for the rest of time. This year they released their best album ever, which is not an easy thing to say because immediately I want to say "No, that's Zaireeka! I mean Hit to Death in the Future Head!, no wait, it's Clouds Taste Metallic, no, no, wait a minute, I think it's In a Priest-Driven Ambulance. Definitely. Either that or The Soft Bulletin."

This is what Wayne Coyne said about the process of creating this record, where they basically completely chucked the Protools-enhanced songwriting process of their last few records in favor of something infinitely more raw and organic:

Could we find our way back? Probably not . . . It could take us beyond our known universe. Could we find our way back? I hope not!!! Good . . . Then let’s make a double record before we turn back into the insecure humans we know we really are, for at the moment we’ve become fearless beasts with a wicked new machine . . .

Anyways you get my point, and Embryonic is such an amazing and inspiring album (including some awesome artwork) that for the first time in years I am going to go out and buy it in the stores, or at least as for the vinyl release for Christmas. I was going to write a huge post about the album but realized I've been writing about it already on various message boards and emails over the past month, so I'm just going to copy-and-paste here. WARNING: internet message board grammar present

))gets out the scissors((

Lips have always been deadly serious on some levels ("There You Are", "Love Yer Brain", hell "You Have to Be Joking") and silly on other levels. It's just the lyrics have shifted from being majority 'random stupid shit' to majority 'deep/stoned insight'.

And holy shit this new record is awesome. Just listened to the first few tracks and then in "Evil" Wayne came in and said "Wish I could go back in time" after that beautiful and simple synthesizer intro. WOW moment for me. Definitely Zaireeka + Soft Bulletin vibe here.

Wow, and now "If". I had written off there spacey ballad mode but this is so cool. Buying this on vinyl when it comes out!

FF to "I Can Be a Frog" fearing the worst and....wow, this is actually pretty fun. The whole album has a really consistent sound to it that feels like an all-night psychedelic jam with the Flaming Lips, songs kind of sharing each others sounds and blending together. I admit I was a little concerned at first that everything would sound like "Hex" but that's a place I don't mind being in and at least everything doesn't sound like "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song".

Listening to this again before bed on good headphones. The first few songs make me think of "Okay I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand". Also I think maybe "Sparrow" samples "Are You a Hypnotist"??

It's weird, cos I've now listened to this a few times and it at first my criticisms were that it was way shorter than I expected, and then that all the songs sound the same. But after a few listens I realized these two points don't really bother me at all cos I really like the pure sound of the thing; the crunchiness of the drums, the room distance in the vocals, it really sounds like someone taped an epic improvisation on a 4-track (live drums, vocals, bass and sampler) and then they went in and overdubbed in Garageband or Ableton.

There are a few parts where they slip into heavy orchestration or soaring minor key balladry but they are so few and far between that when they arrive it is actually a welcome surprise. The synth strings are more synthetic but with more of the room sound it seems like it flows with the material easier. The harp sweeps on this record are like a damn metallic waterfall.

Much of this record sounds hopeless but resigned to it, and I really like that.

I love "Evil" with all my heart though; I'm weary of that trap too and the boys have released a half dozen or so snoozefests in the past few years; midtempo minor chord piano ballads with little melody and lot of stoner philosophizing. But here I really love it. I think it's far more minimal than they usually go on that route: the simple synth line makes me think of "Ruckzuck" by Kraftwerk or "Lady Godiva's Operation" or something clinical and spooky. I also like how it is short and the beginning and ending of the song takes up a good bit of it. Taping a double album I'm sure they were tempted to make every track a 5 or 6 minute-long epic and I feel like this could have been one of the prime contenders. Glad it didn't turn out that way.

Actually it's funny because my only real complaint at first was that the record was much shorter than I would have liked but now that I think about it, by having so many tracks that AREN'T drawn-out 'epic track's maybe it just feels shorter. It's an odd record; condensed yet sprawling at the same time.

Holy crap "Worm Mountain" just dawned on me. Ive heard this album a bunch of times but never gave this track much attention til now. WOAH OMG this is intense!

Give it a few spins. I was in love with the sound from the get-go but it's still growing on me and every new listen i find more and more things I love about it. Listen to "The Ego's Last Stand", how desolate and uncompromising that sound is. But also how tight and funky in a strange Kraftwerkian way!!! Think about those lyrics. "The sparrow looks up". It makes me think of "Waiting for a Superman", a crane crushing a fly, but the fly looking up at the last minute, and everything going through its head. Is it getting heavy? The song starts with Wayne singing "It's heavier now ". Listen to that last line:

A man holds a gun
There's no explanation
Oh, he shoots at the sun

When he says sun the song STOPS like a weird alternate dimension "Spoonful Weighs a Ton" and that low, alien synth sound swoops in and starts twisting your perception from this cold scientific study of the natural world.

This album is full of amazing little songs, parts, soundscapes, etc. that should take at least half a dozen CLOSE listens to realize. Have you ever tried recording freak-out jams and editing them into something listenable? How about 18 songs that seemlessly fit together, one right after another, building moods and breaking them down? How about the insane drums on this album? How about Wayne's lyrics?

They are some of the best lyrics he has ever written! As obscure as those on "The Spark That Bled" or "The Abandoned Hospital Ship" but totally uncompromising. I think this could be my favorite Lips album ever.

)))puts scissors up(((

HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommended is the mix made by Soundslike in response to the album featuring an INSANELY amazing mix of musicians, jazz artists, musique concrete pieces, etc. Check out Zygotic: After the Flaming Lips Embryonic

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