The Flaming Lips’ “Embryonic”

I do not think that I am terribly good at writing music reviews or criticism because I feel like I lack the proper vocabulary to describe the experience.  I can know why I like something, but the articulation never seems to come across correctly.  That being said I really love music, and so when I encounter an album or artist that I enjoy I feel the need to express it in some form.

As such I point to The Flaming Lips‘ newest album “Embryonic.”  I have been a pretty big fan of The Flaming Lips for the past seven years of so and as such pay close attention to any new music they are working on.  I first heard “Convinced of the Hex” from the new album some months back, but had not encountered much else besides a few speculations and tentative reviews.  The Album was released a week ago, and this past weekend I stopped into Best Buy and picked it up.  I am very glad that I did.

In trying to explain “Embryonic” I think it is important to point out that this is definitely not a piece of music of everyone.  In fact I imagine that it may achieve, at best, only a modest following.  Why?  Probably because the whole thing is just too out there and weird, too different from the majority of mainstream music, and that is really saying a lot for a band which is infamous for its bizarreness.

Does this mean that “Embryonic” is a bad album.  Not remotely.  I have listened to it everyday since I’ve bought it and I am become more and more convinced that it might be one of The Flaming Lips’ finest creations.  It is a particularly good listen as a whole album from start to finish.  

“Embryonic” is dark, moody, discordant, and verges on an almost nihilistic tendency.  The maintenance of a consistency strikes as being happenstance more so than any purposeful direction.  Yet for all the strange chaotic noise that comes through the album it seems to work incredibly well.  I’ve read through a number of reviews of the album and I think that SPIN get’s it right in saying that this album is “the band’s coldest, darkest, slipperiest, least organic work yet.”

I have a long history of loving strange music.  My first real favorite band was Pink Floyd (from whom The Flaming Lips obviously take some major influence — they are even recording a full cover of “Dark Side of the Moon”).  I remember rocking out to “The Wall” and “Animals” back in the mid-nineties while all of my friends we finding pleasure in the pop of the day and age. I have expanded my preference for strange and bizarre music with a collection of such artists as Beck, Radiohead, Chad Vangaleen, Mr. Bungle, Modest Mouse, and so on and so forth.  Sure several of these artists, as well as The Flaming Lips, have enjoyed some popular success, but it seems that they are more often than not recognized for pushing the limits and challenging the status quo.

“Embryonic” displays a commercial disinterest in lieu of producing something truly original and new.  Like Mile’s Davis’ “Bitches Brew” it challenges the convention of a style and sound which the band has formally been attributed to.  It is strange to think that a genre of music like psychedelic rock could really need to have conventions challenged, but everything, even the most out there stuff, has a tendency to become jaded and hollow and that might be why an album like “Embryonic” is so important.

This is the weird part of the post where I question whether I have said anything valuable or interesting in support of the album.  Because of its utter strangeness I question whether it is even really worth recommending the album to most people, because of my assumption (and it is an assumption) that “Embryonic” might just push the envelope a little too much for more conventual musical preferences.  In closing then, I will say that if you like a musical experience that is different from much else that is currently available, then “Embryonic” might work for you.

~ by Nathaniel on October 21, 2009.

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