King's Mouth by The Flaming Lips
By: Amelia Zollner
If you know The Flaming Lips, you know they’re weird. On their latest album King’s Mouth, released as an exclusive vinyl for Record Store Day, the band does not shy away from their trademark weirdness, instead, they proclaim it to their audience through a beautifully abstract story.
Once releasing an album consisting of four CDs intended to all be played at the same time, the band has been known to release ambitious concept albums, and King’s Mouth is no exception. The album tells a strange story and features The Clash’s Mick Jones as its narrator, speaking over dreamy tracks. It’s also the counterpart to Coyne’s art installation of the same name, an immersive experience in which viewers lay down inside of a giant head and listen to snippets from the album while viewing a light show.
Possibly my favorite thing about the album is that it’s a Record Store Day exclusive. Only 4,000 copies of the album have been released so far, all pressed on gold vinyl, meaning only people who got up early on Saturday to wait in line at their local record stores had the opportunity to hear the album before its widespread release in July. The idea of bands releasing albums solely on vinyl is almost unheard of in this decade, and I love the fact that they released an entire studio album this way.
Although some fans of the band might be disappointed by the band’s decision to initially release the album on vinyl, the 4,000 fans who were lucky enough to snag a copy are in for a treat.
“We Don’t Know How And We Don’t Know Why” opens the album with Jones setting the mood for the album’s story, speaking slowly over a dreamy track. Jones’ narration is present throughout the album, carefully weaving in bits of the album’s story. Jones’ constant narration throughout the album is friendly and welcoming. At times, it seems like he’s inviting listeners to climb inside of the world of the album. His narration is the perfect element that ties the daringly inventive album together.
“The Sparrow” is a gentle acoustic track with a bass line that mimics the guitar. Halfway through, lo-fi drums ring out against a backdrop of choral singing. It sets the stage for the album’s sound: the songs aren’t exactly danceable, instead, they’re ambient, mellow tunes that allow listeners to get lost.
“How Many Times” italicizes the album’s sound, an artful combination of electronic instruments and effects and acoustic guitars. Throughout the track, effect-heavy voices count up to 18 as Coyne sings the track’s encouraging lyrics, an interesting addition that demonstrates the band’s constant evolution into more modern, electronic sounds.
Every song on the album serves to emphasize the album’s underlying story, with Jones’ narration sprinkled into some tracks. “Giant Baby” establishes that the story has depth for those who are willing to spend the time to uncover it.
Possibly the album’s weirdest song, “Funeral Parade”, is a strange combination between a march and a slightly ominous Gregorian chant. Somehow, this ambitious concept works and the bass line transforms the combination into a rock song.
The album feels strangely childlike and nostalgic, too. At times, it feels like a weird fever dream, almost dipping in and out of reality. “All For The Life Of The City”, the album’s only single that was released online, is a glimmering, vivid track that is proof of Coyne’s creativity. It dips into the album’s signature narration and comes back to its hypnotic instrumentals.
“Feedaloodum Beedle Dot” is an equally interesting, heavier song that almost put me in a trance.
“How Can A Head” is the album’s strongest track. Coyne questions the King, the album’s subject, before a powerful buildup backed by church bells. Finally, the track drops into a stunning, ethereal finale. At the song’s end, Jones declares, “And that is the end of our story. Bye.”
You’d think that after fifteen albums and twenty years since their first album, The Flaming Lips would have run out of ideas. King’s Mouth proves that thanks to frontman Coyne’s imaginativeness, they definitely haven’t and they won’t any time soon.