The Flaming Lips are back with their sixteenth album. Yes, sixteenth! Titled American Head, the album was released on 11 September on Warner Records in the US and Bella Union over here in the UK. This album gives the sense of maturity from the band from their crazy, energetic days and frontman Wayne Coyne explains that this studio album is a memorable exploration of how we see the world differently as children and as adults addressing themes of family and friends, drug use and religion.
Oklahoma-born band The Flaming Lips released their first album thirty years ago and although we all love the vibrant and lively vibes from 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (with anthems such as ‘Do You Realise??’) and 1999’s Soft Bulletin (‘Race for the Prize’), it’s contrasting to hear the mellow tones on American Head. The opening track ‘Will You Return/When You Come Down’ featuring Particle Kid has a catchy bell-like Glockenspiel sound, but the high-pitched chime is softer and doesn’t surpass the deep meaning surrounding drugs and friends being gone.
Female vocals come from Kacey Musgraves featuring on ‘Watching The Lightbugs Glow’, ‘Flowers of Neptune 6’ and ‘God And The Policeman’; her soft tones create a beautiful listen that tugs on heartstrings making an exciting addition to the album. Coyne’s and Drozd’s haunting fragile vocals also replicate this feeling. The album has some hard-hitting ballads, ‘Mother Please Don’t Be Sad’, ‘Brother Eye’ and ‘Assasins Of Youth’, outlining an innocence and vulnerability to the songwriting alongside Coyne’s quivering voice, bittersweet keys and nostalgic melodies. There is a much stronger presence, full band effort and strength of songwriting apparent in alternative rock album American Head.
If you have ever been lucky enough to see The Lips in concert then you will know that their live performances are out of this world with dramatic euphoria. However, this album reflects the sombre mood the world is in at the moment — given the lack of live performances. The album contradicts the highs of previous albums; the dreamy, fragile sounds in American Head connote a comedown fitting of the times, fitting of a summer without festivals, an environment where The Flaming Lips usually thrive. The album carries a pronounced sense of nostalgia to escape a world in lockdown.
The Flaming Lips’ performances usually contain large, psychedelic space bubbles, heaps of confetti and enthusiastic dancers. If you haven’t seen the performances The Flaming Lips have put on during Covid-19 then you will see that the space bubbles have made a comeback. Could personal space bubbles be the new socially distanced performances of the future?
The lengthy album of thirteen songs is an extremely thoughtful album that is most definitely up there with The Flaming Lips’ other fan favourite albums. Albeit less overtly euphoric than previous ventures, the latest venture is a dreamy, psychedelic insight into American heads.
Words by: Amy Brown
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