I’m not the biggest Flaming Lips fan. And when I say that, I in no way mean I dislike the band. Rather, I understand that they have some very big, loyal fans, and I would not count myself one. I am your typical Flaming Lips fan – I really like Yoshimi. I also enjoy The Soft Bulletin but I haven’t listened to it nearly as much. I even like have put time in with their 1995 album, Clouds Taste Metallic, though I think mostly I really like the opening song. I wasn’t a fan of anything I’ve heard since Yoshimi, and have catalogued them as ‘great band that I didn’t really witness in their prime.’ But, seeing as how they’re this legendary psychedelic rock outfit that has undergone Beatles-like transformations of their sound album to album, and seeing how I’m trying to cover any and all big releases in the music world this year, I have forced myself to sit through Oczy Mlody about five times.
And boy is it a slog. This is one of the most patience testing records I’ve heard in a long time. I understand that Wayne Coyne is known for his bizarre, non-sequitur, imaginative lyrics, but Oczy Mlody sets a new standard for lazy, meaningless, ‘how weird can I make it before my fans stop loving me?” lyric-writing. Here are some examples out of context (not that there is any context to begin with).
“And if the police show up / We’ll give them so much money it will make them cry”
“Glistening in the moonlight / Listening to the frogs / Hiding ourselves in the trees/ Watching with demon eyes”
“The wizard and faeries and witches all came with their medicines to my side / They sprinkled some frog dust on my face”
Pretty much the entire album sounds like Wayne relaying the words that come to him while tripping in the forest at night, and it’s up to the listening to try to decipher meaning or just let it be. If you go for the meaning, you’re fucked. Anything here could probably be some metaphor for peace and love and knowing oneself, but they come across as whatever the opposite of profound is, maybe delusional. And I get it – “HR, you fool, Wayne’s trying to make you find meaning! There is none! It’s all just fun! Fuck all you overly analytical music journalists, you’re not who this album is for!” Okay fine. If you love this shit, then The Flaming Lips can basically do no wrong for you.
But for the rest of us, who heard the genius Coyne could offer in Yoshimi- songs that were glistening from a production standpoint and whose messages were fun and colorful but still memorable- this album is by far the weakest thing the Flaming Lips have put out since Zaireeka (which sorta doesn’t count). That qualification of course omits the unlistenable train-wreck that is that Miley Cyrus collab album (shudder).
But in the spirit of album reviews, let’s talk about the tunes. Musically speaking, this record is characterized by slow, spacey songs lacking live drums (or sometimes rhythms altogether) and traditional song structures, preferring instead to meander along above burbling, droning synths while guitars and keyboards noodle through the left and light channels. The beats are all cheap-sounding Garage Band loops that add nothing compelling and only serve to keep time with the singing. Live bass seems mostly absent, replaced by held-out synth bass notes. The vocals are coated in reverb and echoes, giving the impression of Wayne Coyne’s severed head floating through space, eyes glowing, singing largely without passion or character.
Some of these songs are infuriating. “There Should Be Unicorns” is nearly six minutes of “There should be unicorns with the purple eyes – not the green eyes!” before being interrupted by a spoken word section that’s two decibels too loud and still manages to sound ridiculous despite existing on a song about unicorns. “Do Glowy” sounds like some Wiggles song on drugs, repeating “Do glowy glowy glowy glowy glowwww” above the same formless, unpleasantly ambient, droning backdrop that serves as the template for over half of these songs. “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” (yes, seriously) actually flirts with a pretty piano and melody line before a glockenspiel-like keyboard penetrates with an awful riff that is up there with those pitches only dogs can hear and is also louder than anything else on the song by a country mile.
Pretty much everything on this record is boring, obnoxious or both. I think “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)” might be the best song, and really it’s no better than a bad “Do You Realize?” with worse lyrics (“Oh, the sunset is fuckin’ with my head / Feels like a dying love in the eyes of the young”). “The Castle” almost treads into second half Yoshimi territory with its echoing piano chords and actual melody, but calling it impressionable is kind of a stretch. The last track on the record is another Miley Cyrus collaboration that sounds like a complete 180 relative to the rest of the record, but in the worst way possible. Titled “We A Family”, it acts as some weirdo, psychedelic kum-ba-ya that features more pitch-shifted Miley Cyrus than any sane person can handle, singing words like “It been a long summer / I miss you it’s a bummer / Yeah!” The chorus is supposed to sound epic, with these big, hard-hitting electronic bass notes, but they sound completely out of place next to the traditional ballad arrangement and are more unexpectedly jarring than anything.
I get that Flaming Lips fans love and embrace their ‘weirdo’ rock band with its ‘out there’ themes and lyrics and sounds, but records in that vein, where the straight-laced dad in a power suit just ‘doesn’t get it’ are at least supposed to be either fun or funny. Oczy Mlody is neither. The music sounds like a funeral dirge for mythical woodland creatures, the lyrics are nonsense, the album is an hour long, not a single song is danceable or upbeat, and there are no jokes. I really just can’t see the appeal of this album. I’ve looked for intriguing moments or references or really anything that’s says something besides ‘we’re weird and fuck it we’ll write whatever we want and drugs are awesome,’ but I’ve come up empty-handed. I in no way recommend this album, and I think listening to it front to back is a feat of endurance.