In many ways, the title of The Flaming Lips’ 2017 release, Oczy Mlody, is succinctly representative of the album’s content. Phonetically reminiscent of the opiod ‘oxycodone’ and the term ‘melody’, the title translates from Polish as “the eyes of the young”. On the back of this, before any of the record is even heard, it seems to be implied that the following 12 tracks will be of an obscure and psychedelic nature, focusing on the relationship between perspective and the progression of time. This is exactly what is delivered.
Delicately layered and sonically immersive, the instrumentals are dominated by discordant tubular synthesisers, distorted piercing basslines, high-pitched rhythmic percussion, and singer Wayne Coyne’s gentle choral delivery. For the most part, the music serves to replicate the anxious, nostalgic and otherworldly settings outlined in the lyrics, especially the intense fear evoked on ‘One Night While Hunting for Faeries’ and ‘Wizards and Witches to Kill’. However, there are also moments on tracks like ‘Almost Home (Blisko Domu)’ where this sonic landscape is deconstructed, and a basic funk drum pattern provides a simple and sombre, but danceable interlude.
The lyrical content of this record is highly abstract and centres on the body, fantastical imagery, death and youth. Symbols like butterflies, flowers and the stars frequently appear to express the importance of the aesthetic in determining our understanding of human concepts such as individuality and love. Whilst the repetition of these symbols suits the hallucinogenic mood of the record, it limits the impact of any expression of the human experience, on the basis that the ideas expressed are too abstract to be definitively understood. Coyne’s unfaltering soft tone further prevents any of the ideas expressed in the lyrics from having a strong effect on the listener. In addition to this, the specific abstract and metaphorical character of the album’s presentation of life represents a further shortcoming. Whilst this particular technique marked out The Flaming Lips’ releases in the 80s as original, the continuation of this idea several decades later seems less exciting.
Overall, the sound is engaging but the lyrics on this record don’t leave any lasting impact.