It’s been a long, strange trip to Oczy Mlody for The Flaming Lips. With fifteen albums under their belt since 1986, there’s really nothing left to prove. Challenging conventions has been their methodology and they’ve gotten to be very good at it. Who else would release an ep enclosed in a gummy skull? There’s no need to elaborate on those who’ve been asked to collaborate; Ke$ha, Magnetic Zero, Edward Sharpe, Erykah Badu, and Jim James, not to mention Bon Iver, Nick Cave, Chris Martin and Yoko Ono.
With so many “heady fwends,” the material sometimes seemed secondary to the musicians. Fortunately, Oczy Mlody is one of the Lips most tuneful releases in years. Harkening back to the era of The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, rich melodicism and melancholy combine to create a new sonic template. A gentle keyboard riff informs Oczy Mlody, the opening track, while a heavy bass riff keeps the concoction from floating off into space.
Recording for this disc began back in January of 2015, something of a long gestation period. Over the course of two nights the first track came together with the descending bass and drum machine recorded the first night and the synth track recorded the next. The third track, ‘There Should Be Unicorns’, functions well, although a rather over-ripe Reggie Watts spoken word segment is at best an acquired taste. ‘Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)’ could be an outtake from The Soft Bulletin.
Halfway through ‘Nidgy Nie (Never No’) a musical and psychic shift takes place. The sound turns a tad darker, something that continues onOne Night While Hunting For Faeries and Witches and Wizards To Kill’ (not exactly a title that rolls off the tongue).
With The Castle the mood begins to brighten again. ‘We A Famly’ features a collaboration with Miley Cyrus, creating an duet to rival the greats; George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrill.
Wayne Coyne claims Oczy Mlody comes from a Polish phrase that translates as “eyes of the young.” Unappealing as a title in its English form, it became progressively more appealing in Polish, incorporating both the abstract concept of language and the immediacy of the musical moment. The duality of the disc is what makes it so appealing, it continually blossoms revealing new insights. As Coyne suggests, “it somehow swirls around in your mind and touches things and opens things that you could never consciously touch or open.”
Words: Bob Fish