The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Seriously, who the hell saw this one coming? To be perfectly honest, when news surfaced a few months back about the new Flaming Lips album Embryonic I found myself pretty disinterested. Of course, I love The Soft Bulletin, but that was, like, 10 years ago - an eternity here at the end of the “download->listen->recycle bin” decade. Beyond a handful of great singles, I was never that into the entirety of Yoshimi, and I walked away from At War With The Mystics after one listen thinking I wanted my money back. They had, in my eyes, degenerated into an empty spectacle whose singles were, as P4K said the other day, “little more than excuses to shoot off their confetti cannons”. What could they do next?

The answer, as anyone who’s had the chance to listen knows, is to release one of the very best albums of their long, distinguished career. Embryonic is a sprawling, intense, and at times thrillingly messy display of songcraft and musicianship. They sound like a rock band once again; one that’s been listening a lot of Can, Zappa, Beefheart, and Miles Davis. There are elements of the psyche, prog, garage, and jazz throughout, and absolutely nothing as straightforward as the majestic “Do You Realize?” (from Yoshimi) or as desperately poppy as “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” (from AWWTM). The last time a band defied expectations and reinvented themselves so effectively between albums (that I can think of) was the Lips themselves, when the off-kilter symphonies and surprisingly heartfelt sentiments of The Soft Bulletin came after almost 15 years of surreal, druggy psyche-rock. That they were able to do it again 10 years later, at such an advanced stage of their careers and after such commercial success, is staggering to me. Embryonic has me floored; it’s easily one of the most exciting things I’ve heard all year.

If you need further proof, check out this video of the fearless freaks absolutely shredding album closer “Watching The Planets” last night on Conan O’Brien:


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