If you’re looking for a radio-friendly multipack of accessible Lips hits, buckle up for a freeform, ultra-Coyne-y concept album that takes a bit more time and focus to appreciate. That doesn’t always work, but for Wayne Coyne, it’s right on point and he pulls it off full force. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty freakin’ freaky. King’s Mouth, the brand new studio album (officially out tomorrow) topping off The Flaming Lips’ sizable discography, is a wild experience worth having for several reasons.
It’s got storytime narration and guitar contributions by Mick Jones of The Clash; catch him saying trippy things like “His dead mouth slowly opened. He would be frozen sealed, dipped in steel, screaming thy last scream, or breathing thy last breath, or laughing his last endless infinite laugh” (on “Dipped in Steel”) and more. It’s got a traveling art installation in which you can hear the album pre-release (cool!) once you’ve climbed inside an interactive sculpture of a giant metallic head (cool?). It’s got spoken word sections that revolve around a giant baby, detailing his rise and fall as king of the land. It’s got some monarchical themes that may come as a surprise from the Oklahoma-based band; interesting ones given current B.S. in the U.S. It’s got its own book, entitled King’s Mouth: Immerse Heap Trip Fantasy Experience. It’s got song titles that match the vibe, “Feedaloodum Beedle Dot” winning out as the strangest. It’s even got its own rumors: some speculate that it’s really a Wayne Coyne solo album hidden under the band’s moniker.
Whatever it is, we’re glad it exists, because if someone had a story this vivid and peculiar collecting dust in their brain, that’d be such a waste. Coyne’s imagination is steeped in precisely the kind of whimsical weirdness that has always made memorable art. Fittingly, the short opening track is called “We Don’t Know How and We Don’t Know Why,” and that really sums it all up. While the sound effects interspersed throughout King’s Mouth are a bit of an acquired taste – ranging from people crying to babies…also crying – those sobering layers add to the cinematic nostalgia that’s so heavily felt in the music itself.
As it was first unveiled on Record Store Day 2019 (April 13th) with a limited run of 4,000 gold-colored vinyl records, some hardcore fans have already snagged a copy of King’s Mouth and analyzed it with passion. All of the tracks fit together in storybook fashion, so it’s one of those surreal, sit-down-and-pay-attention records that’s best enjoyed in order. It’s all pretty weighty and introspective, but it’s ethereal too, and some moments are so dramatic that The Flaming Lips must have foreseen a giggle or two in response. When Jones, in his true-punk English accent, addresses “Outer space / and all associated regions,” repeatedly echoed by a heavenly choir singing with ten exclamation points (on “Electric Fire”), it’s hard to assess if Coyne is being silly, or if this is some serious stuff on a metaphysical plane we haven’t yet visited. In many ways, that silly-or-serious tug-of-war is one of the album’s coolest features.
The Flaming Lips (who formed in 1983) continue to be such a big deal that they’re under a lot of scrutiny, so it’s hard not to love the fact that Coyne continues to say “fuck it” and do whatever he feels like doing, this 12-track trip included. And like a lot of innocent, honest pieces of art, its impact is somewhat dependent upon your own level of open-mindedness. Take a line like “It made me understand that life sometimes is sad,” which appears in album single “Giant Baby.” It’s much harder to criticize such simplicity, as some have, than it is to celebrate it. It’s also easy to compare it to their now-famed 2002 album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, in terms of tender naivety. We hypothesize that fans will very much enjoy hearing that the man who once sang “Do you realize we’re floating in space?” still writes with such a childlike-yet-existential tone after all these years.
You can order King’s Mouth by The Flaming Lips here and find it on shelves tomorrow, Friday, July 19th.
Article: Olivia Isenhart