From Soft Bulletin onwards they kept up the mantra that the more experimental their techniques the more pop their sounds, almost like they were throwing up their hands and apologising for falling into line. Yet the soundtrack to last years Christmas on Mars feature seems to have irrevocably altered the band and returned them to their haphazard playful and at times noisy roots. This album is a world away from the comfortable calculated (read boring) pop of Do You Realize. It’s a dark psychedlic trip. It’s experimental and atmospheric, but most of all it’s sprawling, self indulgent and uncontained, with the songs taking a back seat behind the band’s flights of sonic fancy. That’s not to say it’s not musical, it’s just that it’s a little bit mental and messed up in the inspired beautiful way that Flaming Lips used to do it, albeit with better production values. We’re talking 18 tracks here, 70 odd minutes and it tangents around madly in a way that steadfastedly refuses coherance. Initially it’s dense and overwhelming, the structures don’t makes sense, the sounds are weird, some distorted, others just plain wrong, yet after a while you give in to their world and it all starts to make a messed up kind of sense. MGMT appear, as does Karen O making sound effects on the endearing nursery rhyme I Can Be a Frog, but the breadth of this album just can’t be ignored. Gone is the trippy uplifting confetti, the dancing animal suits, the beach balls and in return we’re left with this dark psychedlic trauma, a weird slightly playful paranoia, and a feeling that the band is back and anything is possible.
This album is audacious. You can’t shake the notion that they didn’t have to do this, yet in their 26th year as a band they have crafted the most vital, exploratory and artistic vision of their career.
Bob Baker Fish