Album review: The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips - American Head (Bella Union)

The Flaming Lips. Photo:- George Salisbury

The Flaming Lips. Photo:- George Salisbury

NO ATHEIST has ever written about death in a manner as grimly final as that found in the Bible: "For thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return".

The Flaming Lips position is not so bleak, but tends towards pessimistic Agnosticism - there may be a God, but there probably isn't, so this life is really all we have - cherish it, with 'Do you Realise?' its most powerful and poignant expression.

As their music has often dealt with mortality and the search for the spiritual in a possibly Godless universe, American Head is, by definition, a quintessentially Flaming Lips album. Such themes (‘Mother I’ve Taken LSD’ ), not to mention others of bereavement and aloneness (‘Mother Please Don’t Be Sad’ ), what we have lost (‘Dinosaurs On The Mountain’ ), may not make this an attractive album - but few will capture the strangeness of 2020, and for many it will provide solace and expression. Indeed, it may be one of their finest in recent years.

'The Flaming Lips have always been about tolerance, an open mind, and above all how vital a force Love is'

Musically this is sombre, poignant, and low key psychedelica - spacy and beautiful, with both sadness and solidarity pouring from the melodies (think of the mellower moments of Yoshimi, At War With The Mystics, or more recent albums like Oczy Miody ).

In many respects this music is a cousin to (but certainly never a copy of ) one of the Lip’s key influences - Pink Floyd, though the debt to Floyd is acknowledged in the recurring David Gilmore-esque slide guitar motifs, and Kacey Musgraves’ wordless vocal on ‘Watching The Lightbugs Glow’.

And the Lips have always been about tolerance, an open mind, a recognition that there are many paths a single journey can take, and above all how vital a force Love is, summed up eloquently on closing track, 'My Religion Is You': "Buddah’s cool and your no fool to believe...I don’t need no religion, you’re all I need.”


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