CD Review: The Flaming Lips' Embryonic

Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
Music •••• Sound •••••

Wayne Coyne envisioned Embryonic as an old-fashioned double album whose 70 minutes would meander and peak, not just play like an overlong CD. No frontloading the disc for these boys. Embryonic performs like a smartened iPod shuffle: Fully formed tunes segue into instrumental breathers that walk the scorched earth, and clunky keyboards sliced on Pro Tools crank distortedly as melodies surface and drown in effects. "Convinced of the Hex" sets the tone with overheated vocals and outsize beats, "See the Leaves" spits out an ugly '70s funk, and "If" warbles in a childlike haze. The five Zodiac pieces ("Aquarius Sabotage," "Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast" . . .) allow for voiceovers and shimmering breaks. Just remember to get out the hyphen: There's lo-fi, there's hi-fi , there's devil-enchanted heavy-metalelectronica- pop ("Worm Mountain"). The Lips' sound processor goes beyond their expected psychedelia into some truly dark corners.