Friday, October 30, 2009

Record Review: Embryonic [Deluxe]

This is one of two posts that I've wanted to do, but couldn't quite get a handle on what it should be. Awhile back, we'd talked about pre-ordering Embryonic (2009) from Oklahoma's Flaming Lips. I did so, and received it mid-October... and I'm not sure yet.

Embryonic is the perfect name for it. It's a double-CD full of rough drafts, interludes, and reworkings of the same ideas. I like it better than the previous At War With The Mystics (2006), although I'm still not sold on the now sound of overdriven saturation. So maybe it's half-baked in a good way? Three of the first 5 songs do very similar things: loping, throbbing pulses with squelchy background noises and busy, bombastic drumming. In pseudo-mathematical terms, "Hex" + "Sparrow" + "Leaves" = "Take Meta Mars" x "Hypnotist??" Early there on the first disc, the third and fourth tracks kinda sound like re-imaginings of two specific songs from Zaireeka (1997). But I like all that stuff.

Wayne 2009
I won't go through every song, but "Gemini Syringes" is a nice, mellow semi-instrumental that flows into "Your Bats." The first one on disc two takes about halfway to kick into pretty much the only normal rockin' we get, "The Ego's Last Stand" (but not for long). Karen O's silliness doesn't really improve "I Can Be A Frog" for me. So, we've got animals, Can, ego, astrological signs, Evil, and other cosmic concerns - yep, it's the Flaming Lips!! The next three are what I like most: "Sagittarius Silver Announcement" (effortless psychedelic drift), "Worm Mountain" (anthemic speaker blow-out), and "Scorpio Sword" (approaching Sunn O))) mega-drone by balloon)...

Drozd 2009
You get the idea. There's some good stuff there at the end too, especially "Silver Trembling Hands." So what you've got, with the wealth (excess) of material and modern technology, is the makings of a good live show or your own single-album edit. Here's my new version: Embryonic Redux (50 mins, 13 tracks). I couldn't have done it without 'em! Overall, I think it's an expansive grower. Maybe I'll come to love some of the lesser cuts, it's certainly happened before. Although I'm pretty sure "Frog" is this year's "Free Radicals" for me. I really dig about half of it, a small portion is slightly underwhelming, and I skip a couple of songs regularly. Plus, the big 10th anniversary re-master will probably sound great without all the levels pegging infrared!

Finally... the deluxe package comes in a sweet furry case, with a bonus audio DVD. Also received a nice wide-screen lithograph print (seems like it might be the gatefold cover on the vinyl edition).

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