If 2002's reissue package of The Flaming Lips' early albums was called Finally, the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid, then their collective 2011 output should be entitled Yep, These Cats Still Get High. Released on a USB drive buried inside a 7 pound human gummy skull, this latest EP confirms the suspicions aroused on 2009's Embryonic: The Flaming Lips have finally grown their balls back. Led astray by the pop success of Yoshimi, the past decade has seen the Lips focusing on mundane melodies and simple, oft times boring songs. But this band was forged on psychedelic experimentation and a fearless approach for going big, so it's a relief to have that band back.
"Drug Chart" sounds exactly like what you would think the opener for an EP would sound like if The Flaming Lips made you eat 7 pounds of gummy to get to it. Warm and raw, a super-echoed drum-kit pounds steady and strong in a way that would induce visions if you had just consumed 3 weeks worth of sugar in one colossal, gummy binge. Sparse bass and synth hits eventually fall into a spacey melody while a relatively incoherent Wayne Coyne cries of distant loss over the top. It's big, and dark, and an ideal low-end inducer for a hypnotic state of neo-collective ego-loss. Faster, but much in the same vein, "In Our Bodies, Out of Our Heads" is initially just a groove around an over-loaded fuzz pedal assault on guitar -- much like something off a Phish soundcheck circa 1996. It's a total fuck-around moment, but manages to transcend its simplicity and eventually morphs into a quasi-Martian choral refrain. These first 2 tracks are much like the post-gummy skull sugar rush that precedes the oncoming off-kilt sugar coma in the last 2 tracks.
"Walk With Me" is a modern half-beat industrial groove -- like listening to a Nine Inch Nails record at half-speed. With low and freaky vocals and lyrics about escaping in a time machine, there's a definite Bowie-fan, art-house project vibe to this track, but that has been the formula for some of The Lips' most memorable tracks over the years. Either way, the cut basically serves as the jump-off into the 9 minute tweak-drift of "Hillary's Time Machine Machine." There's no doubt in my mind that Nitrous Oxide was the inspiration for this track: a repetitive electro wobble, the high-pitched overtones of a small drill, fragmented echoes of someone talking gently in the distance. The soothing, two-chord guitar strumming over the top may not be calming enough to play this at the family barbeque, but it is alluring enough to want to fall in love with this band again.