Sometimes a band has to drive straight into the thickest, thorniest part of the forest
Sometimes a band that's been heading down a particular path for a while has to drive straight into the thickest, thorniest part of the forest, and do something completely daft. Everyone from The Beatles to Prince has tempted accusations of self-sabotage with drastic left turns, and with Embryonic, it seems to be The Flaming Lips' turn. Though The Soft Bulletin was quite a head-turner back in the day, after three albums of epic neo-psychedelia, it was starting to seem as though the Lips had painted themselves into a corner. But from the very first track, "Convinced of the Hex," with its Squarepusher-falling-down-an-elevator-shaft sonic attack, it's obvious that Embryonic is all about clearing the slate. Sure, there's still a psych/prog element to some tracks, but it's just one ingredient in a steaming, bubbling stew teeming with the tantalizing flavors of post-punk, electronics, avant-garde experimentalism, jazz, cartoon music, krautrock, and more. Song structure isn't completely abandoned by any means, but it's not always the main motivator: this is an album as concerned with textures and atmospheres as it is with establishing any kind of thematic through line, either lyrically or musically. Some may cavil, but Embryonic proves the Lips still have plenty of life in them.