The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody

by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-01-13

What one needs to realize with the new Flaming Lips album Oczy Mlody is it's not another Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots or The Soft Bulletin, the two benchmark albums that showed the band to be both a forwardly creative and immediately accessible force. It's been touted as a return to that sound, and there are strong elements of both here, but it still exists in its own space. The good news is that it's The Flaming Lips through and through, succeeding by incorporating all the best they have to offer: strange song titles, cleverly disguised serious themes within story-like lyrics, with a mix of both experimental and lush, polished pop.

After the dread and anxiety that infiltrated 2013's The Terror, Oczy Mlody appears to be a more positive effort. It's playful at times, but there's also hope found underneath the glittery, psychedelic surface. A perfect example of this is 'There Should Be Unicorns.' Experimental in feel with a trippy mood hanging all over it, it's ultimately a legitimate cry for a different kind of chaos than the one we've been used to lately in the news, full of unicorns with purple eyes ("not the green eyes"), "naked slaves" and "rainbow sluts." Fantastical anarchy never sounded so bizarre and fanciful.

But their trademark blend of Pink-Floyd-esque weirdness and heartfelt sentiment comes full circle on 'The Castle.' It's one of the best songs they've ever written, and a masterclass in the consummation of lyricism and music. The bright splendor of its fairytale storyline turns into an ache, but a reminder that the strongest people are sometimes fighting internal battles - in the context of this song it's an "invisible war." It's a touching, endearing ode to a woman whose otherwise sturdy being and constitution is compared to a castle that's "brighter than a thousand Christmas trees." Simple on the surface with its trajectory of both melody and lyrical storytelling, the wollop is felt within the emotional, heavy-hitting metaphor of a beautiful fortress succumbing to vulnerability: becoming human. It takes you by surprise after the initial close listen, a tear-jerker first for a band that's always wore their heart on their sleeves (or at least in close proximity, depending on one's radar).

The orchestral grandeur of The Soft Bulletin can be found on 'Galaxy I Sink' with its gorgeous, octave-higher burst of strings that echo the sinister, repeating guitar line of the song.

'How??' is simultaneously moody and uplifting, especially in the track's big ascending moment of bitter nostalgia: "Back when we were young/ We killed everyone/ If they fucked with us..."

Then there's 'Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)', which is an obvious close relative of 'Do You Realize?' from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Both songs offer a reality check, the earlier one putting a positive spin on sad facts while the latest one suggests that life goes on in spite of change, loss.

Calling Oczy Mlody a return to form would be a misnomer, and an implication that The Flaming Lips have lost something of the unique shape they inhabit. They've always been in form, even if sometimes the edges weren't always completely defined. The songs here are both tight and loose, at times bordering on minimal in terms of structure but yet huge in scope when it counts. With experimentation and careful songcraft in equal measure, the album feels of a piece, whole, filtered through the lens that much of their best stuff focuses on.

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