Experimental rock can be hit or miss and when I noticed The Flaming Lips had just released a new album, I was sceptical as I absolutely detested their album The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins And Peaches Doing The Dark Side Of The Moon. At the time I swore that I would never listen to another Flaming Lips album again, but a second chance should be given to all.
Interestingly, as I began listening to Oczy Mlody, I started to question my previous thoughts and decided to revisit the before-mentioned album. Perhaps I was too harsh in my initial opinion.
Nope. I still detest it!
Take a listen to the horrid version of Pink Floyd’s Money and you will see what I mean. While I understand the reimagining concept behind the recording, I don’t feel it was executed well. That said, I’m sure there are plenty of people who consider it to be an amazing interpretation. Thankfully, we are all welcome to our subjective opinions.
The album artwork of Oczy Mlody is clearly psychedelic in intention with a contrasting colour scheme that you can’t help but look at. I’m sure it would look striking on vinyl, but is it worthy of adding to my vinyl collection and TIDAL Hi-Fi music library?
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Oczy Mlody is just an odd title for both the song and album. Nevertheless, it is an instrumental only tune that sets the mood for the entire album. It is atmospheric with a soundstage that appears larger than it really is. It tricks the ears as your mind ebb and flows through the soundscape. It is uplifting while being simultaneously sombre. I love it!
How?? starts off beautifully smooth, but while I am a proponent of profanity in music when it is of artistic benefit, I find the first instance of profanity to be disjointed to the overall musicality of the song. Other than that, I would class the song as a vocal and atmospheric masterpiece. The low-bass distortion is particular pleasing as it doesn’t detract, but adds to the depth of the song.
There Should Be Unicorns steps up the tempo but retains that gorgeous atmospheric sound. I’m literally held captive by the music, in that special place where we should all be when we are thoroughly enjoying the experience.
Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young) is perhaps the most experimental track on the album. It shifts direction within the song itself and will appeal to music lovers who appreciate not only musical experimentation but the extreme edges offered by alternative recordings. That said, The Flaming Lips sound signature is still present. While it isn’t a favourite track of mine, it will likely grow on me after a series of listens.
Night Nie (Never No) pans the music from the left and right stereo channels perfectly. You literally follow the sound around the soundstage as you become immersed in the virtual reality that the artist has created. I love it, but there are a few audible shocks along the way that prevent you from getting too relaxed.
Galaxy I Sink is cold and isolated from a subjective perspective. It is distant and somewhat haunting. While I feel the idea is superb, I just don’t like the lyrical approach and I feel the lyrics become distracting in an otherwise excellent composition. To be honest, the musicality of The Flaming Lips is so strong that vocals are not needed. While I understand this isn’t the approach they are aiming for, it would be fantastic to have just an instrumental only edition of the album as I feel there are two distinct ways this album could be appreciated.
One Night While Hunting For Faeries And Witches And Wizards To Kill certainly presents a soundstage that is relatable to the song title. The beat, however, is somewhat predictable and the vocal elements again are a slight distraction. It is as though the two elements are simply not co-existing cohesively. Of course, one needs to remember that in the spirit of experimental rock, this style of vocal delivery is perfectly acceptable.
Do Glowy seamlessly continues from the previous track but varies the beat and vocal delivery. The vocals in this instance are purposely auto-tuned a little too far, but it works perfectly with the song and I feel that the vocals are once again in sync with the instrumental elements.
Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes is not as demonic as one would like and I feel that the soundstage is a little too shallow, compared to the rest of the album, especially in the initial elements of the song. It does open up a couple of minutes into the track, but at over 7 minutes in length, there are a number of changes that will either appeal or become distracting to the listener. It is an interesting song as I neither like or dislike it. It merely exists. However, post 5 minutes in duration, the song changes character and I truly appreciate the immersive soundstage.
The Castle picks up the beat and while I enjoy the song, I find that the beat is a little too distorted in the low end. I’d say this has been done purposefully as it is consistent throughout the song. I thoroughly enjoy the track, but when I have to turn the Bass+ feature off on my Oppo HA-2, and the distortion is still present, then I question if that level of distortion was truly needed and what purpose it ultimately serves.
Almost Home (Blisko Domu) is a sonically beautiful song that I truly adore. I could listen to it for hours on repeat.
We A Family continues with the smoothness of Almost Home (Blisko Domu), but shifts focus somewhat. It isn’t a bad song, but it isn’t one of my favourite on the album. That said, it does encourage me to listen to the album again.
While I have openly disliked a previous recording by The Flaming Lips, I’m overjoyed that I gave them a second chance and accept that I don’t need to like every album in an artist’s catalogue to be a fan of their work. It merely means that I will be selective regarding the albums I include in my TIDAL Hi-Fi music library. Similarly, I’m still not sure if Oczy Mlody is worthy of inclusion in my vinyl collection, but I have a feeling that it will grow on me exponentially as I listen to it over the coming weeks and months.
The album is also available on HDTracks in audiophile 24/96 FLAC, however, that edition is reported to have an average dynamic range of 4 out of 20. While I haven’t heard that edition as it is not available in Australia due to region restrictions, I wouldn’t describe the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as being dynamically compromised. That said, there are areas where increased dynamic range could have changed and probably improved the tonality of the album, but as this comes under the banner of experimental rock, could we say that the lower dynamic range is done intentionally?
Regardless, I am completely satisfied with the musicality of the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, but reports of such a low dynamic range cannot be ignored.
I did do a quick comparison of the album on Spotify Premium and while it is very similar to the TIDAL Hi-Fi release, it does sound more boxed in and subsequently more compressed. However, that could simply be due to the variance in codecs and the fact that the Spotify Premium stream is a lossy presentation in comparison to TIDAL’s CD-quality FLAC stream.
Interestingly, there are two identical editions of the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, versus only one on Spotify. As The Flaming Lips are distributed by Warner Bros. Records, I can’t help but wonder if one of the editions will be assigned to the TIDAL Masters (MQA) program. Although, neither album would play as a TIDAL Master. If this changes, I will update this review, in the comments, with any information I feel would be relevant.
How about you? What has been your experience? Do you feel Oczy Mlody is sonically compromised? Your subjective thoughts are always welcome!