The Flaming Lips will perform at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park on September 19
With The Flaming Lips’ upcoming Indianapolis concert this September, the reaction to the news could have been an “Oh no, The Flaming Lips are returning. . . again.” With the band’s recent dive into collaborative efforts (The Heady Fwends) and album recreations (the Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) —also a brief yet intense prog rock obsession—finding motive in their experimental chameleon-like nature is hard to pinpoint. Their last foray at Old National for The Terror tour led to skepticism only brushed off by hardcore Lips fans . But with their new album Oczy Mlody and a spot at one of Indiana’s best outdoor venues, the reactions is more like “Oh! The Flaming Lips are returning!”
The Flaming Lips – Ozcy Mlody Album Cover
This album does something that we have not experienced on a Flaming Lips album for quite some time. They have stretched the boundaries of their musical landscape. Breaking down every convention of rock and electronic music, Oczy Mlody feels so futuristically distant yet very tangible and possible. An acclamation of post-conscious and post-future while being incredibly human, Oczy Mlody is music that pushes themselves into unexplored psychedelic territory.
They have spent a career re-animating and conquering genres from psychedelic to classic rock to pop to electronic that they have morphed these genres into a style all their own. This round of philosophical meanderings goes beyond all of that with glorious effects and often challenging perception. But we are talking about the Flaming Lips here and we expect this with their art.
Now into their 14th release, the trilogy of accessible releases and singles beginning back with The Soft Bulletin to At War With The Mystics now provide a foundation. Once more liberating releases like the noise fest of In A Priest Driven Ambulance and Hit To Death In The Futurehead once dominated alternative culture and defined the concept of weird just as much as The Butthole Surfers did finds a back burner.
So it is not surprising that their set list contains mostly popular songs. Staple songs like “Do You Realize,” “Waiting For A Superman,” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” are dominant in their setlist. But where does that leave Oczy Mlody? Did the band make an album so weird that they do not know how to interpret it on stage? (The answer is no as you will read later) Or, have they grown accustom to the festival scene? Why change the formula if it works.
The Flaming Lips – There Should Be Unicorns (live)
There are certain expectations to a Flaming Lips show: lots of lasers, even more confetti, and Wayne Coyne rolling around in a hamster ball to get as close as he can to as many of his fans as possible. It’s a humbling gesture but without it, the Flaming Lips seem as empty as The Grateful Dead without pot.
What we do get from Oczy Mlody is a live version of “There Should Be Unicorns.” The song beckons thundering electronic pulses through hypnotic sway. The song itself moves like a monotheistic chant, harping about a mythological creature. “There should be unicorns, ones with the purple eyes, not the green eyes.” The live video of the song shows Coyne riding out into the audience on a dayglo lit unicorn while draping himself with blow-up rainbow angel wings. While this is happening, you have lasers, confetti, lights, beach balls and pure bliss. It’s a song worthy of every setlist, but instead of adding in “How??” or “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)”—both stageworthy jams, the band reverts back to their staples.
Where would Aerosmith be without “Dream On” performed at every show. And where would The Flaming Lips be without “Do You Realize?” as an end statement to their shows. There are expectations with seasoned live musicians and this The Flaming Lips’ tour will suffice every one of them. What we can revel in is that the band has turned a handful of tunes into timeless pieces of history. And as that hamster ball rolls out into the crowd, we will eat it up.
If you want to get a glimpse to what Oczy Mlody sounds like live, look to the live album The Flaming Lips Onboard the International Space Station Concert For Peace. This is where the band spins an interesting and beautiful web of weirdness.