Album Review

The Flaming Lips, 'Embryonic'

October 12, 2009

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The Flaming Lips Embryonic
Warner Bros.
ESSENTIAL “Convinced of the Hex’’

Warning: “Embryonic’’ is nothing like “At War With the Mystics’’ or “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,’’ the Flaming Lips albums that preceded it. Where those two discs went for polished, melodic pop-rock, “Embryonic’’ goes for loud, in-your-face bombast. Oh, the melodies are here, but they’re buried beneath distorted, thunderous rhythms and bass lines, squealing guitars and keyboards, and assorted random noises. Most of these 18 songs were conceived as freewheeling jams - freakout grooves, frontman Wayne Coyne calls them - and they feel that way: raw, meandering, almost dreamlike despite the chaos. In a way, the songs feel unfinished, as though we’ve caught them in an embryonic state. Lyrically, the tunes deal with the nature of evil, power, submission, and freedom - heavy fare, to be sure - but there are a few moments of pure silliness, such as “I Can Be a Frog,’’ in which Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs makes a variety of animal sounds. “Embryonic’’ is not as strange as “Zaireeka,’’ the Lips’ play-four-CDs-at-the-same-time experiment, but it’s up there. On the other hand, “Embryonic’’ is completely absorbing. It grows on you in a way that the earlier records simply cannot do. (Out tomorrow)