Review Summary: Oh My Gawd!!! does not quite succeed on all fronts, but it hints greatly at The Flaming Lips' promise and ambition.
Back in the day, when Wayne Coyne and his bandmates released their debut album, Hear It Is
, it probably would have been difficult to foresee what would become of The Flaming Lips' name. Sure, it was an interesting record, but it was really nothing special, nothing that would hint toward The Lips becoming one of the most celebrated acts in psychedelic rock. This might have been for the best, however, because there were not necessarily any expectations placed upon the band: no pressure to deliver an album like The Soft Bulletin
, not yet anyway. Fortunately, this fact allotted the band some pliability to do whatever they wanted. As a result, we have Oh My Gawd!!!
, a bigger and more exploratory record for a band realizing that the best way to develop its niche was to carve one out itself.
Today, Oh My Gawd!!!
sounds more true to The Lips than its predecessor. They have noticeably kicked up the quirkiness in favor of a more distinctive and experimental record. The Lips throw out conventional song structures on tracks like "Maximum Dream for Evil Knievel" and "Ode to C.C., Pt. 2" and incorporate more outlandish effects. For the most part, this album is a guitar-drive affair, but there is much more variety and attention to detail than Hear It Is
. Additionally, the idea of drugs is sprinkled throughout the album, both in the symbolism evoked within Wayne's strange lyrics and the fickle rhythms from song to song.
The album is as jocular as it is mind-altering, and The Lips never take themselves too seriously. However, there are moments of depth that present a more meditative side of the band. "Can't Exist" is somewhat philosophical in its approach to unrequited love, even paralleling it to a simple justification for atheism. "Love Yer Brain", the album's piano ballad, deals with the mental strain of trying to understand the world. The Lips present much more than an acid punk dimension on this album with a sound that carries unpredictable baggage. However, this baggage is often not weighty enough to enliven the album, and it occasionally falls into the same monochromatic traps.
The tracks here are interesting enough, but few of them really produce any profound effect once they've faded into oblivion. Nevertheless, the hooks are amusing and goofy when they do hit, and the band's whims can be a joy to absorb for the open-minded listener. Songs like the sincere "Thanks to You" and the winding "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning" offer much more than their titles suggest and display the band's conceptual range. The latter dares to compare the sunrise to the possibility of an atomic bomb explosion in its nine minute length. Even the lengthy intro of "Prescription: Love" sounds slightly improvised.
Wayne's vocals frequently jump between being seething and mellow, and, while musically the album is not incredibly stunning on the whole, the bandmates play off of each other very well, especially when the sound becomes more hectic. One can't help but get the feeling that the band had a lot of fun making this record. Though fun does not always translate into remarkable results, The Lips show a firm commitment to retaining a zany quality of their own. It also never sounds like The Lips are aiming for perfection. Instead, through all the noise and wacky effects, they utilize sloppiness to their advantage.
Oh My Gawd!!!
depicts The Flaming Lips just beginning to locate their peculiarities. They hold onto their loud guitars with their amplifiers turned up, but they also tiptoe further into the fanciful. Therefore, the album is much more ambitious than their debut. Although Oh My Gawd!!!
sometimes fails to let go of the insipid sounds of the band's punk edge, it faces the band in a more inventive direction and portrays an undecided group of rockers with significant potential.
One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning
Thanks to You
Love Yer Brain