It’s hard to judge Embryonic at this exact moment. Not because there’s any question about its greatness; the album is a wonderful freak-out that places the Flaming Lips smack dab in lysergic territory. The reason it’s hard to judge the album is because it comes at such a critical point in the band’s career. You begin to question if you’re celebrating the music or, in fact, merely celebrating the fact that the band has finally released an album that shakes free those fringe supporters who dig the band’s euphoric highs, but can’t handle the bad vibes that sometimes show up when coming down.
Yes, count me as one of those who questioned if the band’s creative mojo was in jeopardy. With every festival show came complacency, the notion to play it safe and hash out material that would only continue the tradition of confetti favorites and bubble-walking anthems. I actually liked parts of At War With The Mystics, but I could sure as shit identify the three or four songs that would inevitably be featured their live set.
I can’t hear which songs from Embryonic that will fit inside their notorious live shows. I can’t hear them because it’s hard to think of the abundance of melancholia throughout the album in the context of the feel good vibe of the Lips’ live show.
Kudos to producer David Fridmann for keeping Embryonic in an infantile stage; the record sounds wonderfully unfinished, allowing the listener to develop the mix with their own imagination. There’s plenty of distorted drums, fuzz bass, twisted guitar parts and ethereal keyboards tacked around the landscape.
A complaint, however, needs to be lodged for excessive use of harp sweeps, Fridmann has now used this technique far too often and it’s time for him to look towards other tools to promote sonic statements (slide guitar? Drum roll? Piano arpeggio?).
Minor production quips aside, Embryonic is a blessing for old-school fans who have grown troubled with the band’s scripted themes, videos, and pre-recorded parts. Embryonic is raw weirdness, created by a band that felt stifled by a reliable script that has served them well for the past decade. The band sounds like they’re ready to re-examine a time when things weren’t so tidy and pre-programmed.
Finally, the punk rockers are taking acid again.