Indie pop’s long-reigning jesters have returned with an album that puts in a nutshell why they are adored and disdained in equal measure.
Oczy Mlody is billed a conceptual rock opera — a designation that could arguably be applied to every Flaming Lips record — and, to the non-diehard, will be chiefly notable for featuring Miley Cyrus, with whom the band has cultivated an ongoing and mutually beneficial creative relationship.
As ever the music inhabits a lush psychedelic Neverland, over which frontman Wayne Coyne chirrups generally unintelligible lyrics (good luck piecing together the storyline which, so the internet informs us, concerns wealthy citizens seeking transcendence through sleep-inducing drugs).
There are longueurs, during which it may feel as if the the Lips are explicitly trying to test your patience (another familiar affect) and few of the straightforward pop flourishes that were a feature of the group’s late Nineties period (for a moment circa the Soft Bulletin they were essentially straight ahead proper alt.rock band).
Yet Oczy Mlody can be charming when it wants, too, and qualifies as light relief following 2013’s The Terror, a howling rumination on the break-up of Coyne’s marriage.
Cyrus exudes mega-watt charisma on the haze-drenched ‘We A Famly’ while on ‘Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)’ Coyne reminds us that, before he was famous for turning up at rock festivals in a giant hamster ball ‘zorb’, he was a master of blissed-out melancholy.
Such moments qualify as mere interludes throughout a project that elsewhere hams up the ensemble’s freak-show aspects (particularly indigestible is ‘The Castle’, described by Coyne as the Lips’ attempt to rewrite Peter, Paul and Mary’s ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’).
Still, there are enough glimmers of cloud-bursting transcendence to keep you hooked.