The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

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My familiarity with The Flaming Lips began with The Soft Bulletin, which remains not only one of my favorite Lips' albums, but favorites of all time.  It was, from start to finish, a very well considered effort to make the most out of each song musically, and it was tied together lyrically to mean... something.  It could be considered a soundtrack to a movie that didn't exist, or, at minimum a concept album.

Fast forward a decade beyond a steady decline in ambition and corresponding rise in concert-ready big beats, and I still look forward to a new Lips' release.  Embryonic, on the whole, represents an effort to return to the grandeur of a bigger vision.  Flaming Lips - Embryonic But, rather than trying to make each song the best that it can be, they intentionally focus on keeping an experimental edge.

At 70 minutes and with 18 songs spanning two CDs, this translates to no songs that beg inclusion on an iPod playlist, and a ton of filler - primarily the instrumentals.  That said, it does demand repeated listenings.  Songs that are, at first, off-putting eventually settle into a consideration of the whole of it.  In other words, I've given Embryonic its chances and found something better than indicated by my first reaction - always a good indicator for music with an enduring quality.  Unfortunately, there's little in the way of amusement, lyrics, or aural enjoyment to suspect that I'll ever want to listen to this much.

And, as frustrating, is the realization that had the Lips not feared of covering old ground, this could have been a hugely successful effort (as a single CD) that would rival The Soft Bulletin.   Songs such as "The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine," "Evil," "Worm Mountain," and "Watching the Planets" could have been the foundation for something greater.  Instead, the intruding electronic "bleeps," an unhealthy dose of jarring noises, and a filtering of leadman Wayne Coyne's voice beyond its endearing qualities set this effort far back.

They get high marks for effort and their willingness to boldly go somewhere different, but Embryonic is proof that not every idea is a good idea.  It's much like a blockbuster actor who gets a side deal for a more challenging role in a low budget flick.  They get artistic credit, but no goes to see it.  In any case, the Lips present one of the best concert experiences you'll ever find, should the opportunity arise.

Suggested Tracks: "Worm Mountain," "Watching the Planets"

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

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