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The film The Fly left an indelible impression on me as a kid. I grew up when H.B.O. was coming into its own, and The Fly was in constant rotation. I watched it every time. The final ten minutes is indicative of the most human proclivity when confronting abject disappointment: The humble entreat to end the pain. Scientist Seth Brundle (played by a young and perpetually horny Jeff Goldblum) accidentally turns into a man-sized fly. This metamorphosis takes the length of the film, during which Brundle loses his humanity. In the denouement, Brundle, unable to talk because his jaw has been replaced by a fly mandible, communicates viscerally to his terrified, shotgun wielding ex-girlfriend. Brundle, painfully aware of his condition, grabs the barrel of the shot gun and places it on his forehead. Upon the second listen of Oczy Mlody, the 14th studio album by the Flaming Lips, I wanted to make like Brundle and end my misery.
Oczy isn’t a complete tonal departure from previous Lips classics like the multi-layered, beautifully composed Soft Bulletin (1999), or the indie rock meets psychedelia meets computer bleeps offering Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002). Or even their last record, 2013’s opus The Terror (a masterfully crafted concept album about the perpetuity of life even without the solace of love). Oczy indeed sounds like Flaming Lips. The problem lies in the apparent lack of genuinely cathartic inspiration.
The Flaming Lips’ M.O. is drawing inspiration from anything and anywhere, and lead vocalist/songwriter Wayne Coyne is never shy about revealing his muses. Regarding Oczy Mlody (a Polish phrase that loosely translates to “Eyes of the young”), Coyne disclosed to Entertainment Weekly that the cover of a 2$ paperback novel found at a thrift store inspired songs for the album. The problem is most of the album sounds like it was inspired by the cover of a 2$ paperback novel found at a thrift store. Percussion is sparse, rhythm is limited, and the lyrics…oy. Couplets like “White trash rednecks, earthworms eat the ground—Legalize it, every drug right now” (from “How”) are just uninspired juxtapositions. Coyne and company (lyric duties are shared among other members of the band) have always been the kings of childlike profundity (listen to the Yoshimi masterpiece “Do you realize??”). But most of the lyrics on this album (“I saw the universe in your giant eye—I want to touch your mind hole and go inside” from “Galaxy I Sink”) are just childlike. (Mind hole?)
Sometimes, or arguably typically, the result of just doing something to do it reflects laziness and not the desired effect of artistic bravery. Summation: The Lips phoned Oczy in. And I, disappointed and heartbroken, wanted to make like Brundle-fly.
Stand out track: “We a Family”– This Miley Cyrus (that whole thing…a book could be written about that whole thing) collaboration is pleasant.