The Flaming Lips have Taken Us On Yet Another Journey Through Time and Space
WORDS BY RICKIE MCCANNA
The Flaming Lips have done it again. As a long time fan I was over the moon when I heard the announcement of their 15th studio album. The Flaming Lips have always been there through my upbringing in music. You always hear them in playlists, online or even in 50 First Dates. While heavily criticized for often being “weirdos” or “senseless stoners” (I mean what else is there to do in Oklahoma?) I’ve always given TFL the consideration and time I thought they deserved. The often misunderstood concept of the band has caused the great divide known as “love them or hate them” with few in between. To be upfront before we get too into this, I’m on the love side.
The Flaming Lips are one of the few acts who have a huge run of over twenty years that I’m actually happy to see to make new music. I couldn’t tell you how many bands I’ve said, “I really wish they would have broke up after that album” or even “why are they still doing this?” but it’s never the case with these guys. I can tell you now that I would happily take another 3 or 4 releases from The Flaming Lips.
The Flaming Lips will release their 15th studio album, King’s Mouth: Music And Songs (Warner Bros. Records), on all formats on July 19th; black vinyl, CD and digitally worldwide. As previously announced, King’s Mouth was released as a limited edition gold color vinyl pressing for Record Store Day this past month in an edition of 4,000. All copies are now sold out. I personally didn’t get my hands on it and I’ll never forgive myself.
Before we get started I do want to let you know ahead of time, this is concept album. I mean, It is coming from the band who designed a four disc set all to be played simultaneously on four CD players, so this might be one of the easiest story releases we’ve gotten from them. Over the past decade or so I wasn’t impressed with TFL and was still spinning Yoshimi. However, TFL have been taking us on a wild ride through time and space since the early 90s, this album almost feels like answer to unfinished story lines and fan theories. The album is named for Coyne’s 2015 art installation and has even been rumored previously as a solo project. The physical King’s Mouth piece was a room sized metallic head with a gaping mouth that once inside, played ten minutes of a (what you’d expect) psychedelic music and lights show.
We even have The Clash’s Mick Jones narrating almost like a mysterious (suspicious?) punk rock tour guide through the universe, time and space. Thanks, Mick.
While I don’t want to tell the entire story within the album, that’s their job, I will get you prepared for what you’re about to hear. The album takes us on a journey through the life of a giant king who scarifies himself to protect his kingdom against an oncoming threat. The kingdom honor his memory by removing his head and dipping it in steel as a memorial. Very similar to the physical art piece by Coyne.
One stand out track for me is ‘Feedaloodum Beedle Dot’. Every time I hear this one I can’t help it but dance, just a little. While the story of of Kings Mouth is told well throughout, when we get to this track I feel as if I’m there. During that first drum beat roughly 8 seconds in, it gives you the feeling you are finally falling into the universe they’ve created and experiencing it first hand. This is a track I can see gaining some traction in movies & television and taking off past the radio. It’s catchy, sticks in your head and I guarantee you’ll be air drumming at your desk to this beat while avoiding paperwork.
That track falls directly into funeral parade, where you feel not sadness, but happiness from the kingdom celebrating his life. The kingdom does mourn However they see it as a day of celebration for all the King has done for them. They’re showing us that while they still will heartbroken their king is gone, they will not forget all the good he has done. They will cherish the sacrifices and selfless love he shared with them. They host a funeral not only to mourn, but to come together and spread the joy of his life.
There are heavy medieval themes through this album but they are especially prevalent in this track. The track mimics marching which causes you to visualize the kingdom marching with the Kings head, the band has successfully put you in the story and have designed the soundtrack for this king’s life.
However, parts of the record are lacking. Intentional or not I keep getting lost. There are some small flaws that make it fall short from perfect. Nothing lashes out at me, there’s nothing I can’t move past but there are quite a few times in the album I get confused. Beats not lining up or lyrics that almost seem invaluable or thrown in. It’s nothing rememberable to ruin the album for me but some of the instrumentals fell short or almost didn’t have a home and felt added in with no purpose.
Kings Mouth is a dynamic collection that brings TFL back to their roots. It’s a breath of fresh air from the top 40 or commercially made indie pop I’ve been hearing so far in 2019. With the music structure of the music industry more and more artists are picking comfort over creativity and aren’t knocking down as many walls as we used to only 5 or so years ago. With the increased popularity of streaming and the rise of rent, groceries and life in vernal I can’t blame them. In this industry you really do need to be blessed in more way than one to create something no one else has before. I’m proud of The Flaming Lips for keeping true to themselves in more ways than one over the past 15 albums. I definitely recommend giving this album a listen to all the way through maybe with a friend or two. It’s a conversation piece and I can’t wait to see how it’s received after it's all format release on July 19th.
The Flaming Lips will always be criticized, they will always be misunderstood. They’re artists after-all.