In the summer of ’09, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne announced the October release of their new double album to be entitled Embryonic. Having especially been a fan of their last two efforts, 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and 2006’s At War With the Mystics, I was thrilled to hear it. Then a few weeks later I heard “Silver Trembling Hands” from the back half of the album and I was more than pleased with its psychedelic verses juxtaposed with it’s retro smooth sounding chorus. In a nutshell I was more than excited to hear the end result in the fall. Much to my chagrin, upon my first several listens, my response was a resounding no thank you.
For the most part, Embryonic consists of trippy background noise and reverberated vocals. Electronic blips flow over any lyrics you might otherwise be able to understand. The vocals you can understand are usually agonizingly repetitive like on “See the Leaves”. They essentially took the acid inspired interludes from songs like Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” and turned them into a double album. The funny/sad part is that these are the least of the disc’s problems.
It’s the general inaccessibility that concerns me most of all. Usually inaccessible turns out to be ok because half of the fun of inaccessible albums is taking the time to decipher them and make them accessible as per Animal Collective and the like. The problem is that the material has to be interesting enough to want to spend the time on it. That’s not the case with Embryonic. These songs meld together in queasy psychedelia and general vocal unrest. It gets to the point where if you hear Coyne make one more whooping sound you might just vomit… or turn it off. Whichever comes first.
That being said, I suppose it takes marbles to release something so different from your recent material that you risk alienating your fan-base. Also, some of the instrumental bits like “Aquarius Sabotage” are pretty cool in that they do remind me of Pink Floyd. Come to think of it, all of the parts I enjoy remind me of Pink Floyd. Actually, sometimes it’s just plain ripping off Pink Floyd. It’s actually no surprise that they went on to cover Dark Side of the Moon, which I found a mediocre homage at best. Anyhow, from what I hear, most Flaming Lips fans have embraced Embryonic just fine. To each his own. This is just not my own.