The Flaming Lips – “Embryonic” (2009)

October 12, 2009 at 7:55 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Flaming Lips)

The Flaming Lips outdo themselves on this esoteric but never impenetrable double-album magnum opus. It may not have the brilliant, concise songcraft of their last three albums, but in its sprawling adventurousness and total psychedelic mindfuck-meets-Bitches Brew sonic stew, the Lips prove that they are still the most imaginative and original band in rock & roll these days. Not bad for a bunch of guys who have been at it for over 25 years.

Ringmaster Wayne Coyne’s fearless experimentation puts most of today’s safe and bland rock bands to shame, which is why we need groups like this more now than ever. I don’t see anyone aiming this high, artistically, on a regular basis. Only Radiohead comes close in matching them for sheer creativity and inventiveness. And longtime sonic architect Dave Fridmann proves once again why he is one of the top producers in the world, and why this could be one of the most artistically successful producer-artist duos since George Martin and The Beatles.     

The Lips mostly eschew the lush, skewed pop of more recent albums like The Soft Bulletin and At War with the Mystics for a much darker space-rock vibe in songs like “Scorpio Swords” and “See the Leaves.” Though the album is more experimental and challenging, than they have been in awhile, not to mention downright loopy in places (as on the whimsical “I Can Be a Frog,” complete with animal imitations), they never completely leave the art of songwriting behind. But they are clearly not in the mood for delivering easy singalong choruses this time around. They indulge in voodoo mystical grooves and raw, electronic jams that show a clear Krautrock, as well as Miles Davis fusion-era influence on songs like “Aquarius Sabotage” and “Convinced of the Hex.”

It all adds up to one long, amazing work of art. Spacy, maddening, brilliant, loopy, sinister, meandering, breathtaking – these are some of the words you can use to describe this. But one word really suffices: mindblowing. The Lips have done it again. And as long as they continue to put out albums with this much creativity, let’s hope these fearless freaks keep blowing our minds for another 25 years.

Jay Mucci

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The Urges – “The Urges Theme” (Video – 2007)

October 12, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Music)

Read my album review below of these purveyors of 60s garage-psych mayhem. Here is the first video off the album from 2007.

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The Urges – “Psych Ward” (2007)

October 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Every once in awhile I’ll get lucky on an album by an unknown group that I find in a record store (yes kids, records used to be sold in places called record stores – go figure), that I’ll buy on a whim, based on abstract reasons, such as a cool cover, interesting song titles or the visual style of the artist. One such album I got lucky on last year was Psych Ward by a group that I had never heard of called The Urges, who originate from Dublin, Ireland.

The album, which originally came out in 2007 on the Screaming Apple label, was released on CD (with a different running order and cover) last year on former Soprano and garage rock aficionado Little Steven’s Wicked Cool imprint. The album, a rocking and high-energy tribute to the whole Nuggets ethos, is unoriginal and does nothing that hasn’t been done a million times before, but does it as well as it’s ever been done. These guys have clearly done their homework and pass with honors.     

Songs like “I Gotta Wait,” “It Ain’t Right” and “The Urges Theme” are clearly all cut from the same reverb-drenched, Farfisa’d, paisley cloth, tricked out with vintage ’66 analog production techniques. “I Gotta Wait,” in fact, could have been a hit back in the day. It definitely holds its own with some of the classics of the genre.  

I’m not sure, being that this band is dwelling in musical styles that are now forty years out of date, if they were influenced by the originators of this style – The Chocolate Watchband, The Standells and The Count Five – or whether they grew up listening to the children of those artists – The Chesterfield Kings, The Cynics and The Lyres – who were part of the early-80s neo-garage rock revival. Either way, The Urges, Sky Saxon’s spiritual grandchildren, are carrying on the tradition, in grand rocking style. This might not be original, by any means, but you could certainly do worse if you put this platter on at your next house party.

Rock on, as they used to say.

Jay Mucci

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