The Flaming Lips “American Head”

After thirty-seven years The Flaming Lips have carved themselves a name and distinctive sound synonymous around the world. Their protracted musical journey has seen the emergence of fifteen studio albums of varying genres and quality. Now, in 2020 they return with their sixteenth release, American Head.

American Head is a strongly cohesive album with on-point production from the Lips long-time producer Dave Fridmann. With a horde of sound embellishments interwoven throughout, it is a sensory eruption at times. However, this bodes well serving as an enhancement. In combination with vulnerable, at times confessional, lyricality, and Wayne Combe’s distinctive vocal range, the production flourishes assist to conjure overall affectivity.

Despite the sound embellishments, the album is an enigma of contradiction for where it lacks distinctiveness and mastery is in its overall one-notedness. Predominately consisting of slow cadence melodies, the unhurriedness of the tempo becomes somewhat challenging to negotiate, in particular, through the middle section of the album.

A robust introduction with opener and album highlight Will You Return/ When You Come Down seamlessly transitions into Watching the Lightbug Glow, a delightful instrumental that captures the wistful ethos the Lips are known for. The pace set by these songs continues until song eight, You n Me Sellin’ Weed, which finally has a tempo change at one minute and fifty seconds.

While the flow begins to moderately undulate from this point, key motifs underpinning the album consistently continue lyrically and instrumentally. These motifs tie everything together, create cohesion among the thirteen tracks and elevate the overall scope of the album.

American Head is an impressive effort from The Flaming Lips. It successfully finds the balance between exuberant eccentricity and vulnerability similar to their previous commercially and critically acclaimed albums The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002). It is a welcome addition to the Lips extensive and eclectic discography.

Album Review By Anita Kertes

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