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.