Not unlike a sweet delicious treat scored from Forrest Gump’s mother, every time Oklahoma’s proudest musical export since Woody Guthrie release a record, you honestly never know what you’re gonna get until you take a bite.
Psychedelic troubadours The Flaming Lips celebrated their 30th anniversary as a band last year and over the course of their career have defied the formats of conventional releases time and time again. They released a 4-disc set in 1997 called Zaireeka – designed to be played on four separate stereos at the same time then in 2012, pressed a strictly limited run of vinyl for their Heady Fwiends album containing actual blood samples of collaborators like Erykah Badu and Kesha. For Halloween in 2011, they released the “24 hour song” 7 Skies H3 on flash drives that were sold for $5000 a pop. “That’s a bit rich Wayne!” bristled Lips fans the world over until Mr. Coyne and co. casually mentioned that these flash drives were encased in real human skulls and there were only 13 copies made. Thankfully 7 Skies H3 was pared down to a more manageable 50 minutes and re-pressed on (hopefully blood-free) vinyl for this year’s Record Store Day celebrations and went on to be the fourth highest selling RSD exclusive release of 2014.
No stranger to doing whatever the damn hell he pleases, Coyne has been banned from Instagram twice for his lax attitudes regarding female nudity (Well before Rihanna or Kim Kardashian) and has recently been at the center of a pretty ugly public spat with ex-drummer Kliph Scurlock, however the thing for which he’ll possibly be best remembered is his uncompromising artistic vision. Those of you who pick up 7 Skies H3 in the hopes of hearing another gorgeous folk/pop song like Do You Realize?? from the seminal 2002 record Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots or a good-time singlong like 2006’s The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song will be bitterly disappointed but The Flaming Lips seemingly don’t really care and at the core of it, this is what makes them truly great.
“Ambient”, “atmospheric”, “spacey” and “out-there” are just a couple of buzzwords you could slap across many of 7 Skies H3’s 10, virtually indistinguishable and largely instrumental tracks that wash over you like a simultaneously glorious and terrifying nightmare. Diehard fans of the band may rejoice in the band’s return to the free-form Pink Floyd/acid-inspired experimentalism of their earlier days however if you jumped on the bandwagon any time after 1999’s breakthrough The Soft Bulletin, sadly you might not even make it past track one – the eight minute 7 Skies H3 (Can’t Shut Off My Head).
Some of the song titles pretty accurately describe the overall feel created in each of the 10, almost self-contained musical landscapes that still manage to flow into a cohesive set. Meepy Morp has all the circuit-bending synth sounds you’d picture from such an onomatopoeic title and Battling Voices From Beyond is as sci-fi terrifying as you’d imagine. The arid desert guitar of Metamorphosis alludes to all the bleakness of the eponymous Kafka novel, ironically Requiem is probably the gentlest track on the record and as for a song like Riot In My Head!! well… it pretty much says it on the tin.
To sum it up, if you like the loving, communal feeling The Flaming Lips leave audiences with across the world almost at every gig they play, then you’re in for a pretty rude shock with 7 Skies H3. If, on the other hand, you’re into music that can stay with you on every twist and turn of a bad acid trip then this, my friend, has your name written all over it!