20 years since releasing The Soft Bulletin, The Flaming Lips have unveiled their 15th long-player. King’s Mouth is a technicolour dreamscape, peppered with buoyant electronica and gliding guitars. To say King’s Mouth is a poignant step back into relevancy is fair; in this instance, it is a refresher for a slog that saw the Oklahoma ensemble muddy the fervent favour they struck up; particularly after Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots seemed their magnum opus in 2002.
King’s Mouth is a canonised approach from the Lips, and is tasteful in its lysergically-laden composition. Importantly, it doesn’t get tiring before you’ve had a chance to really listen to it. The album engages with electronic instrumentation to create what sounds like a glitched-out childlike dream (see ‘Giant Baby’ and ‘Mother Universe’). Less bombastic than past releases, the Lips lull you into a mid-blossom Kafkaesque moment – ‘Electric Fire’, for instance, wrestles with the surreal, and drifts into a melting-pot of orchestral manoeuvres. However, a weakness of this album is its spaced-out tempo. There are moments when it should pack more of a punch, and there are moments when it shouldn’t. But, this is all part of the tripped-out tampered production, and in some cases, its sonic layers owe more to an unsettling peculiarity embedded in the record’s nature.
The record flits between the curious into the uncanny, the oh-so-recognisable narration from The Clash’s Mick Jones serves an unsettling role in its constancy. Poetic stream-of-consciousness speeches are scattered throughout the record, and not just from Jones. Undeniably aligned with a Plastic Beach era Gorillaz, these aspects are at their best in ‘All For The Life Of The City’ and ‘Feedaloodum Beetle Dot’. As the album progresses, the spoken-word elements let King’s Mouth esteem itself as a textured experiment in multi-media. With dispersed echoing guitars and spaced-out vocals, the album weaves into a superb cinematic composition.
The closer, ‘How Can A Head’, allows the Lips to reinvigorate their decades-long legacy in a swelling orchestral finale. King’s Mouth embarks on a flitting, colourful journey. Poignant in its inventive trip into the avant-garde, The Flaming Lips’ 15th record is one of their best. Up there with their best work, it is interesting and immersive. Its symphonic and glitching composition harks back to the Lips at their peak, and for that reason, it’s a record worth paying attention to.
Words by Jasmin Robinson