I’ve been really impressed with the number of Great Albums The Flaming Lips have put out so far. Starting with In A Priest Driven Ambulance (their first Great Album), they have done an incredible job of maintaining that kind of energy and songwriting, while rarely repeating themselves, or getting stale. Which is saying a lot; not only are their early efforts extremely illustrative of how far they had to come to be able to record a Great Album, but the number of Great Albums that follow defies all logic, in that most bands are lucky to even record one.
Cursory listens of Embryonic has me convinced that, after a short break, they are back to defying all logic once again. Between In A Priest Driven Ambulance and their newest effort, the band has produced some really amazing (and occasionally quizzical) records. After producing Clouds Taste Metallic – to this author, a peak of songwriting skill that has yet to be fully recaptured – they released three records in a row that were all incredibly different, and each spectacular in their own unique ways. But it seemed as if the band had tapped much of their creative juices by the time At War With The Mystics was released, which, at best, is a well performed tribute to their influences. After nearly 20 years, I was beginning to think that they may want to throw in the towel, or at the very least, become a Greatest Hits band, touring the County Fair circuit, and cashing in on t-shirt and back-catalog sales.
However, Embryonic has, in my mind, proved that I had the band completely wrong. I’m sure I’m not the first to say it, but this record is their Kid A, another reinvention for the band in the same way that both Clouds and Yoshimi were. But what makes this record a must for me is the simple fact that, like discovering Parts And Labor, or that Opal record (that is admittedly over 20 years old itself), this is an album that instantly grabbed me and demanded close, careful listening. That, alone, is something I can’t ignore.
Unmistakably The Lips, and unmistakably new territory (simultaneously!), this record will once again polarize fans, critics, and anyone else who has even heard of the band. If you have never been a fan, this is a great place to start. If you’ve hated them in the past, this could be your entry-point, too. And if you already know and love them, then you probably already have the record, anyway, so, ’nuff said.