After lauded indie albums, The Flaming Lips debuted on Warner Bros. with 1991's Hit To Death In The Future Head. Transmissions From The Satellite Heart and Clouds Taste Metallic followed. 1999's TheSoft Bulletin topped num... more »erous year-end best-of listsand helped rank the band among the most influential inthe world. 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots ranked #4 in Spin and #11 in NME on their end-of-yearlists, and won a Grammy. Most recently, the band's full length feature film and score album Christmas On Mars received critical acclaim at screenings across the country in 2008.« less
After lauded indie albums, The Flaming Lips debuted on Warner Bros. with 1991's Hit To Death In The Future Head. Transmissions From The Satellite Heart and Clouds Taste Metallic followed. 1999's TheSoft Bulletin topped numerous year-end best-of listsand helped rank the band among the most influential inthe world. 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots ranked #4 in Spin and #11 in NME on their end-of-yearlists, and won a Grammy. Most recently, the band's full length feature film and score album Christmas On Mars received critical acclaim at screenings across the country in 2008.
""Embryonic" is the sound of the Flaming Lips returning to what garnered them fame in the first place. I have always respected the Flaming Lips for dedicating themselves to exploring sound at the detriment of everything else, even it means making a song that is downright difficult to listen to. It's not about doing what's safe for the Lips, it's about shaking things up. Their last album troubled me because it seemed that the Lips couldn't figure out what direction they wanted to take, so they ended up releasing "Yoshimi-Part Two". "At War With The Mystics" was interesting, but not conducive to their talents. "Embryonic" gleefully breaks off that path of sameness and poppy tunes with a very sparse, dark sounding record that works fantastically. Those of you who love Can will find many reasons to welcome this album to your heart. From beginning to end "Embryonic" is a relentless, percussive affair while injecting strange guitar interruptions and sudden keyboard stabs that are as fresh as they are unsettling. Even Wayne Coyne is summoning the spirit of Damo Suzuki with his unintelligible ranting and yelling while the groove behind him keeps chugging away into unknown territory. It's a slightly primal affair in its simplicity, but Coyne pushes it farther out into space with his bizarre vocal trickery. The music wants to find space to breath, but Coyne simply won't let it as he constantly is at odds with the idea of giving the listener any sense of normalcy. It's this constant push and pull that makes this album such a damn interesting listen. There really aren't any standout tracks on "Embryonic". The album definitely reeks of "concept" as all of the tracks flow into one another, yet Coyne's lyrics seemingly don't have much meaning which makes it all the more mysterious. Every song on this album is strong except "I Can Be A Frog" which brings the proceedings to a screeching halt. Coyne thought it would be a good idea to get cute and play one of his little nursery rhyme games right in the middle of the album and it doesn't even come close to working. It's too bad they had to include this track as it undermines what is great about the rest of the album. Thankfully the track is only two minutes long, so the album picks back up after this brief interruption. "Embryonic" ranks right up there with "Soft Bulletin". Rarely do I have such a strong positive reaction to an album but "Embryonic" has a lot of power and soul to explore. It isn't tuneful and precious like "Soft Bulletin" is, but it balances out by being intensely focused on its disjointed ideas. For very different reasons it reaches a euphoric level of creativity that only albums like "Soft Bulletin" can reach. I am glad that the Lips are back off track. "Embryonic" is a treasure."
Not the masterpiece everyone says it is
E-CLoud | 10/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When "At War With The Mystics" came out, I thought it was probably their most disappointing album, because it lacked the genuine energy they are known for. I thought to myself "i hope this is as far as they go in this direction, and I bet their next album will be much crazier". It is surely crazier. I like many things about this new album. I like that the old flaming lips drum sound and drum pounding energy is back. I like that they got really creative with noise, sounds, guitar effects, and the general production and sound altogether. It's a nice change that it's not so electronic. I thought there were great electronic moments on yoshimi and at war with the mystics, but the live band format is what I loved them for in the first place. I love that they didn't adhere to too many pop song formulas that have (in my opinion) made them not as exciting as they used to be. There are also things that sort of rub me the wrong way with Embryonic though. I feel that when you put the most rocking songs together, they sound very similar. Each of those songs are centered around 1 chord or note, which is fine, but I feel that they are actually lacking in original ideas in the songwriting department. Wayne's melodies here are fairly predictable which puts a damper on the songs. And if you are familiar with Can and Pink Floyd, get ready for picking out several examples of rip-offdom. When I look back at Clouds Taste Metallic, In a Priest Driven Ambulance, Hit to Death in the Future Head, I see song after song of completely unique, fresh, sometimes dangerous, exciting, original ideas. This album lacks much of that energy. I love how experimental, schizophrenic, loud, psychedelic, and strange Embryonic can be, but one has to admit it can be a tad bit derivative at times. It gets an A++++ in the production/overdubs/sound-as-art/energy/concept department. But sadly, it gets a C- in the original ideas and songs that back those other elements. However, one should never expect perfection from artists. The Lips needed a change, and this is it. Who knows what their next album will be like? Don't get me wrong, I'm as happy as anyone at this new direction, but I keep reading reviews saying it's their best album ever, a masterpiece, the best album of the year, etc. Maybe this album will grow on me, but I think people are just liking the dramatic change in direction of the Lips so much that their vision is a little clouded. People are a little too influenced by reviews (especially pitchfork i might add) and they don't form their own opinion first. Anyhow, thank you flaming lips for reaching for that old spark, it's nice to see it again. "
The band's strongest work--in only their 26th year.
Ian Manire | Portland, OR | 10/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Flaming Lips, for the last decade purveyors of grinning, gleeful quirk-pop, festooned by confetti and bunny suits--a recipe with initial charm but diminishing returns--have, according to Wayne Coyne, killed off their "former selves . . . Our more crafty or calculated selves. Our less brave selves . . . Our less spontaneous selves". Thus in their 26th year, the band has created what I feel is their strongest work ever: `Embryonic'. The new album borrows from the production techniques and stylistic eclecticism of their previous best, `Zaireeka,' and from the manic energy and freak-out distortion of their 80s and early-90s albums. The stylishness and cinematic scope of their most acclaimed album, `The Soft Bulletin,' is channeled into a darker, sparer, more visceral direction. The two strands combine to create their most sophisticated and at the same time most visceral work. Though there are moments of silliness and optimism, most of the cartoonish clowning ("She Don't Use Jelly," "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots") and scrubbed-clean brightness of their mainstream successes is gone.
`Embryonic's central production feature is the classic Lips technique of very heavily compressing the drums, creating a distorted, absolutely massive sound, this time devoted to more intricate and sexier beats than ever before. Other sonic "solids" are created with stabs of distorted guitar, swooping harps, distant bells, and subtle percussion. But despite these distorted and compressed elements, the music is (literally) highly dynamic, and around and between these sonic boulders and rocks is a beautiful and melodious stream of electric piano and organ, treated vocals, strings and xylophones, and ambient texture. The lyrics remain largely abstract, but a more lifelike character voice is conveyed, one wrestling with the ambiguities of humans, which can be "evil" but can "be gentle, too, if they decide". It all adds up to their most sonically vigorous, sometimes most soothing, sometimes most ferocious, and certainly most emotionally evocative work to date."
That's the Difference Between Us
T. Owens | Pacific Grove, CA USA | 03/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm an old dude. Pushing 60. Spent my formative musical years in the 60's and 70's, a huge fan of groups like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, King Crimson, Yes, Traffic, Genesis, Roxy Music/Eno and more obscure groups like Gong, Camel, White Noise, Gang of Four and Le Orme. I wanted to present that perspective so you get where I'm coming from before saying I think Embryonic is a masterwork that stands up to the efforts of those vets who knew how to blend music, sound and noise into a sonic landscape that takes the listener on wonderful journeys.
Believe me, I understand that this is not everyone's cup of tea. It was never intended to be. I get it why some people might actually hate it, just like I used to get crinkled faces and jeers when I put on In the Court of the Crimson King or Topographic Oceans. But to the audience who enjoys more adventuresome opuses, who have the patience and desire to sit back, listen intently from beginning to end and just let the fun happen, this is one of the freshest, most original albums I have heard in years. Perhaps my favorite for all of 2009.
Love what I should hate.
Greg | Brooklyn Park, Mongolia | 04/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I despise noodling. I hate impenetrability. And I loath pretentiousness. And "Embryonic" toes the line on all three sins. Maybe it's just my irrational love of "Flaming Lips" as an entity, the creativity freakshow totality of them, that makes me forgive them for what should be an unlistenable mess, but so help me, every time I listen to this CD I find I like it a little more. I know saying something grows on you isn't necessarily much of a compliment, given that yeast will do that much, but for whatever reason, I find "Embryonic" intriguing and compelling. Could be that Wayne is laughing his butt off and the whole thing was a goof to see how far he could push FL fans (which is kind of how I view his "movie," Christmas On Mars. If so, the joke's on us both, because I think I really like this stupid thing. And I'm not even a stoner. (But for the record, I'm pretty sure that would help.)"