The Flaming Lips
Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Dec. 25, 2009
The Flaming LipsEmbryonic (Warner Bros.)
"There's no way back, it's complete devastation," warns Wayne Coyne on "The Ego's Last Stand," opening the second act of epic Embryonic in the throes of a maddening bassline that pounds from the deepest, darkest recesses of a repressed psyche. After a decade whirling in the ecstatic thrall of symphonic anthems and hallucinated spectacle, Embryonic washes away the euphoria commenced with 1999's The Soft Bulletin to present Lips 3.0. While the experimental Okies have always wavered in the searching rift of manic-depression, never have they so fully embraced the brutally incapacitating side of the psychological equation as on their 12th studio LP. Dense, dire, pushing at the shattered edges of psychedelia, Embryonic eschews the uplifting bravado of the Yoshimi years for an inextricable 70-minute acid trip. "Convinced of the Hex" culls traces of 2006's At War With the Mystics but quickly dissolves in a discordant blur and the metallically etched scarring of "The Sparrow Looks Up At the Machine" and disquieting calm of "Evil." While Coyne & Co. cue from Pink Floyd, the Lips linger at the most disturbing edges of chaos ("Aquarius Sabotage") and rein in only further distress-frayed psychic penumbras ("The Impulse"). MGMT adds neo-glam glow to "Worm Mountain," magnificently warped by skuzzed and pummeling drum and bass, and Karen O contributes distraughtly to "Gemini Syringes" and closer "Watching the Planets." Embryonic gestates the Lips to a new phase, turning eerily inward to finally face the flipside of their frantic catharsis.