The Flaming Lips are nearly halfway through their third decade together as a band. It is amazing to me that they can still produce such a high volume of music with such creative energy and drive for constant tonal and textural experimentation. Sure, their output of late may leave something to be desired, having produced a near uninterrupted 6-year streak of poor-to-mediocre tribute albums and collaborative projects. Sure, the band’s most recent collaboration with Miley Cyrus on her album Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz might just be the worst, but you can’t knock them for trying (the bands relationship with Cyrus puzzles many, myself included).
Oczy Mlody sounds like a bit of a return to form, not that there was a form to return to in any way. 1999’s The Soft Bulletin springs to mind, one of my all-time favorites. The Soft Bulletin saw the band totally reinvent themselves, reducing the prominence of guitars in favor of synthesizers and denser production. Bulletin sounded BIG, but this established a precedent that the band would follow in future releases, to the extent that 2009’s Embryonic and 2013’s The Terror are really unapproachable because of their sonic density. Oczy Mlody on the other hand more or less totally does away with guitars, pairing way back on the production to what I would argue to be the overall betterment of the finished product.
Traditionally, The Flaming Lips have erred on the side of quote-unquote happy music (an exception could be made with The Terror, which, surprise surprise, is a bit spooky). With Oczy Mlody however, the band is offering a largely dour affair, not that this is a bad thing, they do a convincing enough job of selling the sadness. Comparisons can and will be made to coldwave, a style of punk music that made heavy usage of synthesizers to build dark atmospheres that originated out of East European nations in the 80s. It’s been speculated upon in the past by the media that frontman Wayne Coyne is in the midst of a really bad mid-life crises, a claim that is reported supported by his outlandish behavior in recent years. This is a narrative that conforms to the overall mood of this album, although it’s saddening to know that such a good-hearted person is in such a funk.
It’s certainly not for everybody, it’s not your typical psych-pop album, nor is it perfect for that matter, the production is paper thin to the point of almost not working (but working o-so-well in the same way), the synths are often antiquated to the point of having kitsch value and Coynes falsetto vocals are polarizing to say the least. At the very least I can promise you something interesting to listen to, something that is very, very psychedelic, man.