Review | The Flaming Lips - King's Mouth
The Flaming Lips return with the surprisingly light tale of a dead king and a former Clash member.
From the first track, it’s immediately clear this record is unlike anything The Flaming Lips have done before. It feels like what could possibly be the first Children’s Prog record. One of the most striking features of this frequently striking album is how breezy it is while remaining an enticing listen. Most of The Flaming Lips’ albums since 2009’s “Embryonic” have been particularly demanding releases, but this album floats by with an ease like a synthesized string section from Steven Drozd’s keyboard. It opens with a gorgeous instrumental that perfectly combines the electronic elements of 2017’s “Oczy Mlody” and the symphonic touches of “The Soft Bulletin” In a familiar way, but a way that also feels like a logical and comforting progression from their past work. Mick Jones sets the scene with his narration, and guides you through the somewhat complex tale of the King’s Mouth. The music is emotional, but not overpowering. Drozd’s strings give way to a strummed acoustic guitar and Wayne Coyne's now semi-permanently autotuned vocals on “The Sparrow.” This song displays some of the band’s pop tendencies last displayed on “At War With The Mystics.” It’s a nice song, but things only get better from there. The album gains steam as it balances beautiful pop songs like “Giant Baby” and “How Many Times” with crazy story-tracks like the overwhelmingly powerful “Electric Fire.” The full-fledged songs of the album are mostly led by strummed acoustic guitar; a common sound that makes the album one of the most cohesive and unified records the band has ever made. This simple touch grounds the outlandish story, and makes it feel almost familiar, as if these are songs you’ve known all your life.
Despite the emotional heft of the music and the overall tale, one qualm with this record is that some of the lyrics feel a little half-baked. At times it feels as if Coyne is aiming for the grandiose ideas presented in Lips classics like “Do You Realize??” or “Waitin’ for A Superman,” but a lot of times falls a little short, such as elements of “The Sparrow,” which seems to rehash ideas the group has already tackled in better ways. Such is the nature of making your first ever concept album. Still, the easy psychedelics of the album make it all alright. The album hits its stride with the last five tracks. “Feedaloodum Beetle Dot” is one of the best grooves the band has come up with since “Take Meta Mars,” and is so nonsensical and fun you can’t help but smile. Mick Jones guides listeners through the King’s funeral with visions of splendor and coy Pink Floyd references, culminating in the sublime “How Can A Head” which will hopefully become a bona fide Lips classic. The release of tension and emotional catharsis this track creates is a real treat, and most importantly, fun! The Flaming Lips are a fun band, and it feels good to see them embrace this in such a fantastical and assured way.
Before you know it, the album’s over. It disappears into a space ether occupied only by the king’s severed head and a drum machine. It’s an easy record, and while you may argue that it’s “too” easy, from a band who’s been known to release 24-hour tracks, it’s nice to have an easy listen. With “King’s Mouth,” The Flaming Lips have created one of their most focused albums in years, and in the process, made perhaps the most whimsical prog record of all time.
Best Song: How Can A Head
Worst Song: Mother Universe