‘Embryonic’ is huge, loud and impressive

curt.kemp

With the release of “Embryonic,” The Flaming Lips have reminded everyone that they are the same band that put out a four-CD album more than a decade ago (“Zaireeka,” 1997) and suggested that listeners play all four CDs at once. Thankfully, as the majority of fans don’t have four sets of speakers, “Embryonic” isn’t “Zaireeka.” It’s only two discs and none of the band is suggesting they both be played at the same time, but what ties the two Lips albums together is the sound: huge, loud and impressive.

There are multiple layers to everything here. With the distorted synth notes, guitar screeches and ominous bell tones on the first track, “Convinced of the Hex,” The Flaming Lips’ 12th full-length album guarantees a 70-plus minute journey through massive soundscapes.

This album is a showcase of the ability of their former heroin addict and current musical prodigy guitarist Steven Drozd, whose over-dubbed, free-form noise and high-pitched backup vocals are all over “Embryonic.” But, as an ode to Drozd’s genius, the noise on the album lends itself more toward the beautiful and haunting than the experimental.

And then there’s lead singer and front man Wayne Coyne. More well-known for his hands-on approach to the Lips’ legendary live shows – which include blow-up Santa Clauses, tons of confetti, laser pointers, a life-size space ship landing and Coyne rolling out in a massive gerbil ball to crowd surf – Coyne affirms in “Embryonic” that his lyrics are still as philosophical as they were in the Lips’ hit song, “Do You Realize?” On the track “If, “Coyne sings “People are evil, it’s true/But on the other side, they can be gentle, too/They decide/But they don’t always decide.”

The collaborations on this album are what stand out the most, though. On “Worm Mountain,” maybe the album’s best song, the band brings in MGMT’s danceable space-synth pop to add another layer to the Lips’ fuzzed-out rock. The result is what you’d expect a rock concert on the moon to sound like.

Not every track on “Embryonic” will remind people of 2002’s poppy, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” but even the most casual Flaming Lips fan will get their money’s worth.