If nothing else, The Flaming Lips are known for their experimental ventures into the world of psychedelic rock. Some of these leaps have turned out extremely well in the past, while others have misfired and rocketed into more confusing territory. Given the range of quality — especially their more recent output — I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Oczy Mlody, which details a primarily drug-oriented journey through the mind. My doubt did resurface a couple of times throughout the album, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by The Flaming Lips’ sonic explorations and their ability to keep diving into new musical territory, even after over 30 years of experimentation.
The album opens with the titular “Oczy Mlody,” a rhythmic instrumental track that lets the listener know what tone to expect from the album: dreamy with a bit of an edge, a musical feeling that seeks — and finds — a balance between repetition and freshness. The Flaming Lips use this song to launch themselves into a 12-track evaluation of the many emotional and mental subtexts of love, drugs and violence. The first few songs are lyrically intriguing because they introduce some of the most central preoccupations of the album — the violent confusion of “How??,” the troubled idealism of “There Should Be Unicorns,” the despairing frustrations of “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young).” These songs are pensive and colorful, and they are tied together by their strange representations of balance between the clear and the cloudy, the real and the imagined.
It is not until a few songs into the album, however, that things begin to get more interesting. The catchy near-instrumental “Nigdy Nie (Never No)” maintains the rhythmic feeling of the songs before it, while introducing a little more edge and inventiveness in terms of the relationships between its instruments — sometimes harsh and fuzzy, sometimes fresh and clear, always quick and insistent — and its sparse, almost choral vocals. “Galaxy I Sink” and “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” both embody the interesting dichotomy between vivid clarity and lost abstraction and fear that is presented by drug use and love alike. “Galaxy I Sink” effectively employs many different instruments and sounds — from the hard plucking of a guitar to the anxious surge of violins to an undertone of what sound like crickets, and “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” brings the cricket-like noises back, along with the croaking of frogs. “One Night While Hunting for Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill,” a psychedelic journey through some fairyland, is to me the most lyrically impressive song of the whole album, detailing a strange story of violence met with healing, of confusion met with clarity and leading toward love.
Almost all of these songs explore the relationship between — and at times union of — clarity and confusion, trust and distrust. “Almost Home (Blisko Domu)” recedes from the album’s earlier strains of fantasy with philosophical questioning, expressions of uncertainty, and disillusioned recollections of “my fragile dream / of how the world is full of love.” Then comes the closing track, the single “We a Famly.” Miley Cyrus emerges as the voice of the beloved figure often addressed and alluded to throughout the album, and finally responds to all of the album’s troubled-yet-hopeful uncertainties about love and life, affirming, “It’s you and me, we a family.” This song represents a definitive decision on the part of The Flaming Lips to end this album, for all its doubts and anxieties, on a note of hope, faith, and togetherness. Brief laughter comes after the final proclamation of “We a family,” closing out the song, and with it, the album.
Oczy Mlody does see a few low points – some of its earlier songs blend together musically, and the lyrics of, for instance, “Do Glowy,” are nothing to drop one’s jaw at. However, it comes together for a well-conveyed message about the merits of existential inquiry, about love in the face of confusion and darkness. Dreamy, fantastical and musically inventive, it is a drug trip, a love story and, above all else, a verification that The Flaming Lips still have something to offer the world of psychedelic rock.