As good as it is to see the new Flaming Lips album Oczy Mlody getting positive reviews, I've struggled to agree with the terms in which the praise has been framed. Both Drowned In Sound and the Quietus have hailed it as a return to the sound that characterised their commercial peak in the late 90s/early 00s. I've never been quite as rabid a fan of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots as others have, but The Soft Bulletin is an absolute beauty of an album and Oczy Mlody's lead single 'The Castle' certainly suggests the comparisons aren't wide of the mark. So you'd think I'd be pleased, right?
Well, I am - to an extent. What I don't approve of, though, is the parallel "return to form" narrative, and the consequent trashing of preceding albums Embryonic and especially The Terror. Drowned In Sound's Jack Doherty is particularly scathing about the latter, describing it as "rid[ding] the group of everything that made them great, stripping away the pop hooks in favour of prog-inspired meanders into a world less interesting than 'real life'". While it's true that its minimalism and relentlessly bleak outlook (no doubt coloured by the fact that Wayne Coyne was in the process of getting divorced) make it a striking contrast from the rest of their output (The Soft Bulletin in particular), I surely can't be alone in thinking The Terror is a terrific record in its own right?
In any case, the purported contrast between The Terror and Oczy Mlody is nowhere near as sharp as those two reviewers claim - the latter has more in common with the former's ambient soundscapes than they seem prepared to admit.