The Flaming Lips
King's Mouth


3.5
great

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
July 22nd, 2019 | 59 replies


Release Date: 07/19/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A partial return to excellence.

The Flaming Lips have never been a band to shy away from the grandiose. Drawing influence from prog greats over the course of their career – while arguably, in the process, becoming one – they’ve pieced together their share of elaborate concept albums, be it the robotic themes of Yoshimi or the weird, tripped out space of Oczy. Still, they’ve never properly crafted a story; something that goes all-out with characters, a plot, and full narration. That’s where King’s Mouth feels like one of the group’s most ambitious offerings yet – if not musically, then at least conceptually. The fifteenth LP from these psych-rockers transports us to a mystical kingdom where the ruler uses his enormous head – which is filled with its own complex and swirling galaxies – to rescue his people from perishing to the forces of nature (a massively destructive avalanche), by umm – devouring the entire universe. Afterwards, devoid of a place to live, the townspeople cut off his head (how kind), and then crawl inside to live happily ever after within a utopian society. Y’know, just like the bedtime stories mum used to tell.

The primary draw of King’s Mouth is hardly its off-the-wall plot, however. In the wake of two very different full-lengths – 2013’s dark, gripping, and wholly alienating The Terror and 2017’s ineffably bizarre Oczy Mlody – this record feels like something of a return-to-form. The atmosphere is gentle and lush, channeling Yoshimi’s warm, synth-bound electronics alongside the most definable melodies we’ve heard since Embyronic. The abundant acoustics aid King’s Mouth’s accessibility as well, gently steering the band’s overall aesthetic from one that is cold, distant, and strange to one that is proximal, sincere, and heartfelt. This sonic shift is why the record has already garnered comparisons to their two famed classics – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin – but the parallels are more stylistic than they are representative of sheer quality. King’s Mouth is at times a beautiful transportation, but it rarely culminates in as satisfying of a fashion as, say, ‘Do You Realize.’ This album is far more even-handed, for better or worse, and comparisons to The Flaming Lips’ career peaks – while inevitable – are both sensationalized and premature.

King’s Mouth is at its best when it plays to these warmer aesthetics while limiting Mick Jones’ apt yet occasionally irritating narrations (any song where his overlay consumes more than a quarter of the run time feels downright unnecessary). Tracks like ‘Giant Baby’ and ‘How Many Times’ fit that bill, floating atop effortless acoustic strums and pleasant vocal harmonies that are just memorable enough to stick. Another instance is the instrumental ‘Funeral Parade’, which begins with a brief plot update from Jones but then continues into a propulsive mix of synths, strings, and electronics. There are few missteps or pitfalls, just as there are relatively few must-hear highlights. From beginning to end, King’s Mouth embraces and entertains, like one might expect from a good storybook. At 42 minutes, the album is also one of their shortest and thus makes for a relatively breezy listen – each song flows into the next, forming a cohesive experience in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, that’s what King’s Mouth boils down to – a record worth getting lost in for its grander ambitions, not for its individual moments of greatness.

The Flaming Lips have tapped into something here, even if the idea’s full potential isn’t reached. The ambitious design recalls early Pink Floyd or Genesis, and if only King’s Mouth had the content to back up its aspirations, we might be talking about a progressive psych album for the ages. Instead, we have a merely pleasant album that will tickle the fancy of Flaming Lips diehards but likely won’t draw in a new audience or impress anyone with its technical prowess. The record was initially designed to soundtrack a synchronized light show, and eventually developed into a limited vinyl run for Record Store Day last April. Perhaps its original blueprints prevented it from fleshing out into the kind of career-defining album that it might have been. This feels like a halfway point between a true Flaming Lips full-length and one of their many novelty side-ventures. This is undoubtedly a worthwhile pursuit for fans of the band that also marks a welcome return to accessibility; maybe with a bit of a stronger backbone, it could have been more. At least it’s an avenue well worth exploring in the future for a band that has no problem turning over new stones.



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user ratings (68)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
DemonComedian
July 22nd 2019


24 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

People who only like their 2000's psych-pop material are going to be pleased with this.

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 22nd 2019


32703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

pretty much

Digging: Low Roar - ross.

MotokoKusanagi
July 22nd 2019


2375 Comments


"People who only like their 2000's psych-pop material are going to be pleased with this."

hey that's me

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
July 22nd 2019


10123 Comments


Great review, this gave a clear picture of what to expect. I've heard of these fellows before but never actually listened. Not sure if it's all in my wheelhouse but I'd be willing to try it. Probably best to not use this as a starting point though.

Demon of the Fall
July 22nd 2019


13527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I haven’t heard anything since ‘Mystics’, but used to be a big fan of these guys. I might check this.

Digging: Lapalux - Amnioverse

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 22nd 2019


32703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I might like this more than my attempt at an objective review suggests. Already considering bumping to a 4. I'm a sucker for their 2000s psych-pop as well.

Kompys2000
July 22nd 2019


3312 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is p good yeah

Digging: Your Infamous Harp - Prah Suomafni Ruoy

AngryJohnny
July 22nd 2019


962 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Just found this one really dull, nothing jumped out at me really

hansoloshotfirst
July 23rd 2019


1419 Comments


found it always kinda fitting that their band name sounds like a euphemism for a std...

Kompys2000
July 23rd 2019


3312 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

How is that fitting

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
July 23rd 2019


17245 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice stuff, e x c i t e d to hear this. Didn't know you were a Lips fan, Sowing!



Only quibble is this: "they’ve never properly crafted a story; something that goes all-out with characters, a plot, and full narration."



While this is technically true over the course of a whole album, there have been so many satisfying standalone narratives in their past (Slow Nerve Action, The Spark That Bled, Christmas at the Zoo, Thirty-Five Thousand Feet of Despair and the whole first half of Yoshimi in particular) that this isn't exactly something that's felt as though it's been missing in the slightest. Definitely hyped to hear them flesh things out to this extent though!

Digging: Yeule - Serotonin II

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
July 23rd 2019


19108 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

"progressive psych album for the ages."



they did something like that already, it's called Embryonic :^)

Digging: Autistic Daughters - Uneasy Flowers

Kompys2000
July 23rd 2019


3312 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hard agree Johnny, all the songs you listed are all-timers

osmark86
July 23rd 2019


9352 Comments


oooo haven't listened to the lips in ages. might give this a go since I really used to like these guys back in ze day.

Divaman
July 23rd 2019


4412 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I loved Oczy Mlody.

Digging: Tegan and Sara - Hey, I'm Just Like You

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
July 23rd 2019


4895 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's a solid album, but it lacks some truly catchy Flaming Lips tracks.

Digging: Swans - Leaving Meaning

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 23rd 2019


32703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed, that's it's primary flaw in my opinion. Not quite enough to latch onto to call it an elite psychedelic rock album, but it sure is enjoyable in the moment.

Deathconscious
July 23rd 2019


23006 Comments


love TFL, will check this of course.

Digging: Sanguisugabogg - Pornographic Seizures

Pangea
July 23rd 2019


3147 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This looks good

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 24th 2019


42703 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

cool write-up, though I think there's an argument that Priest Driven Ambulance, Yoshimi and even The Terror are concept albums - not to this extent I guess but there's more than just themes linking those together. keen to check this though



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