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Jack Binns reports
Before Embryonic, I knew The Flaming Lips as a big-top act with rubber spheres, confetti cannons and an appearance on The SpongeBob Square-Pants Movie soundtrack; so a quick glance at the head-being-born-from-another-head cover of this eighteen track space trip is enough to tell you that something has changed for The Flaming Lips.
Opener Convinced of the Hex begins with a squeal of white noise and the bleeps of a Geiger counter before a hypnotic bass riff spools on and the voice of Wayne Coyneâ€™s cultist bemoans our irrational fears. The existential doubting and Can-inspired grooving continues with The Sparrow Looks up at the Machine, Powerless and post-apocalyptic See the Leaves.
Throughout Embryonic, Coyneâ€™s top-hatted ringmaster persona is replaced with everything from charismatic cult leader to HALâ€™s conscience to what I can only guess is himself but in another dimension…or something. Or at least I think thatâ€™s whoâ€™s singing on the unnerving ballad Evil. Like all the tracks on this album Evil has a brilliant low-fi sci-fi aesthetic; not in the achingly fashionable way, more like it was mastered on a punch-card supercomputer the size of a family home.
Embryonic is filled with lurches in pace these sometimes pay off (Aquarius Sabotage) but most often fall flat; Karen O featuring I Can Be A Frog is the perfect example and could probably have been cut. What would remain would be an album filled with dense, dark and ultimately cathartic psychedelia: a sort of compensation for MGMT. If Arthur C. Clarke had chosen to write 2001: Space Odyssey with burnt out ex-hippies rather than your typical scientist types then Kubrick could have done a lot worse than use this as his soundtrack.