The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

Album Review by Will Fitzpatrick | 11 Jan 2017
Album title: Oczy Mlody
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Label: Bella Union
Release date: 13 Jan

At some point during the last decade – between the surrealist sci-fi movies, 24-hour songs and gummy skulls – it was almost forgotten that The Flaming Lips were actually a rock band. A distinctly odd rock band, admittedly, but still a group whose eccentricities felt bound to their unique sense of imagination; where the scales were weighted in favour of idiosyncrasy rather than the novelties they’ve become known for in recent years. Whether or not you regard them as tainted by the whiff of gimmickry, it’s worth putting your prejudices to one side here: Oczy Mlody is a damn fine album.

Simultaneously a homonym of the garbled phrase ‘oxy melody’ and Polish for ‘eyes of the young’, the title is typical of Wayne Coyne’s ability to meld a sense of druggy darkness with borderline-hokey optimism. That’s where we find ourselves musically too: although it’s easy to detect the noted influences of Syd Barrett and A$AP Rocky among their folky psychedelicisms and woozy approach to electronic grooves, the music here often feels like a throwback to their 1999 breakthrough LP The Soft Bulletin. Fragile balladry hangs neatly among proggily expansive cuts that explore their territory while leaving you anxiously hanging between movements – nature, violence, mythology and mortality are all crumpled up into a fast-unravelling ball of tangled questions.  

Penultimate track Almost Home (Bliksko Domu) offers the biggest clue as to the dissatisfaction at the heart of the record: ‘Burning up my fragile dream / Of how the world is full of love / It’s not what I thought it was.’ The gentle Sunrise (Eyes of the Young) – a reprise of a song originally written for Miley Cyrus’ Dead Petz project – also finds Coyne admonishing the sun as he ponders the problem of happiness when we know that death exists. ‘You’re showing me the truth / But I don’t want to believe you,’ he sings over a cascade of Wilson-esque melody and restrained techno-psych. Your heart breaks for him – almost as much as when he tries to find positivity amidst memories of a friend lost to suicide on The Castle.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. How?? marries Rundgren-esque tenderness to an implication that words may be the most inadequate means of communication, suggesting that Coyne’s true intentions may not necessarily be detected by lyrics alone. By closing track We a Famly, Miley herself appears for a duet of such simplicity and warmth that you almost forget the despondency buried in their wide-eyed lullabies, quite possibly illuminating the point that the band have been trying to make for all these years: amidst all the chaos and misery that transcends time, technology and the mythologies we build around (or in spite of) them, comfort is valuable and should be taken wherever you can find it. Considering all that's happened in the past year, that seems a decent lesson for us all.

Ok, some of their sillier excesses may jar ever so slightly (unicorns, faeries, witches, wizards and frogs with demon eyes can all be found here, so some strapping yourself in may be required) and fans may well feel the absence of a true pop banger à la Race For The Prize or She Don’t Use Jelly. In every other aspect, however, this is The Flaming Lips on top of their game: refracting the weirdness of the world through a youthful sense of awe and wonder. Therein lies their true novelty.

Listen to: How??, Sunrise (Eyes of the Young), We a Famly