CD review: The Flaming Lips, Embryonic

The tracks are mostly culled from crude jams built around the incessant clatter of two or more drummers, which renders the grooves sloppy and random and denudes the music of the Lips’ trademark gentle naivete. Worse, though: Of Embryonic’s 18 selections, there’s hardly a legitimate pop song to be heard. When Coyne and Co. do stumble upon something vaguely melodic – like the warmly pleasing “The Impulse” – the vocal is barely discernible amid heavy robotic effects.


In fact, Coyne’s fragile falsetto, so effective when soaring over trippy sound collages on the best Lips stuff, is either smothered in the mix or doctored with so many computerized effects as to void it of humanity.


In his essay, Coyne writes that “double albums usually fall into a couple of categories … indulgent, egotistical or lazy.” All three apply to Embryonic, especially the first two.


He continues, “We wanted to be more free … the freedom without the discipline or restraint. Fuck yeah … Either way it’s too late … the damage has been done.”


True. True.


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The quest for free, unfettered creativity can sometimes lead straight over a cliff. And so The Flaming Lips crash and burn with Embryonic (Warner Bros.), a noisy, tuneless “double” album (on one CD) that falls prey to all manner of sophomoric excess and discards the techno-psychedelic-dream-pop that the band brought to sublime fruition with 2006’s At War with the Mystics.

The unfettered freedom bit is not simply my interpretation. In an eloquent essay that’s more interesting and entertaining than the 70 minutes of music it came with, leader Wayne Coyne documents the band’s goal to strip the creative process of filters, premeditation and fear. “So, yes, more free!!! Now at last to be free from the discipline and focus. Free to fail … free to lose ourselves,” he writes.

Indeed.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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