Psychedelic indie outfit The Flaming Lips have been around a long time. Long enough to not really care whether their music meets a standard or not. They have always had a penchant for the absurd, and its reflected in their work, such as in 1997’s esoteric experiment Zaireeka, which required four CDs to be played simultaneously, or 2015’s extremely ill-advised collaboration Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz (avoid). Nonetheless records such as 1999’s The Soft Bulletin and 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots are held to very high regard in the indie canon.
Their latest traditional studio album (not one of collaborations or covers), Oczy Mlody, is somewhat of a continuation of the psychedelic ambient sound from their last record, The Terror. Oczy Mlody takes this sound in more of a pop direction, coated in a slew of nonsensical lyrics and densely warped vocal and instrumental production. It is a combination of flavors that often does not work very well. Or at least does not feel as inspired as the band’s previous work.
Where the album succeeds, such as on the the trippy cryptic song “How??” it does so only part way. The good parts, while occasionally catchy or endearingly silly, feel like material that the band has already made before, but much better in the past. Where the band tries to shake things up a bit, things get especially rocky. Beats and production that sound like they could be in lowest common denominator top 40 hits stick out like a sore thumb amidst the more traditional fairs. “Do Glowy,” with its auto tune esque vocals, dopey lyrics, and irritating drum beat, marks a low point, along with “We A Famly” an overwrought fair that features Miley Cyrus, and closes the album with a bad taste.
I get that the whole shtick for the Flaming Lips is experimenting, and it has worked out pretty well in the past, but the results aren’t very good this go around. The album often feels over-produced in psychedelic effects and unable to commit to new or old, with the old being at least decent, but mostly uninteresting, and the new ideas just messily executed. The Flaming Lips have nothing to prove at this point, but this and their efforts the last couple years are proof that experiments don’t always pay off.