The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd's new project is a solid attempt at arty prog-rock, but in the end, they just can't shake sounding like the Flaming Lips.
It's possible the Flaming Lips don't know how to take a breather. Whether it's getting tattoos with Miley Cyrus, recording an upcoming Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tribute album or controversially parting ways with their drummer of the previous 12 years, the Oklahoma psych-rock stalwarts are always up to something. And that's in addition to their seemingly endless tour schedule.
So, it's not surprising that between all of that, and likely more crazy projects that involve gummy skulls or body parts that the public isn't even aware of yet, Flaming Lips' public leader and musical mastermind, Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd, respectively, formed a side collaboration called Electric Würms, which also features members of Nashville's Linear Downfall. Electric Würms recently dropped their debut EP, a six-song release titled Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk, which roughly translates to something along the lines of "Music that is hard to twerk to".
What's interesting about Electric Würms is how willing Coyne is to point out that this is more Drozd's project that his. In an interview last month with Billboard, Coyne wastes no time offering up that it's Drozd who is the brainchild behind the group. Then, of course, Drozd responds that Coyne should be credited as well. It's almost as if they were both covering their bases in case Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk turned out to be awful.
Fortunately for them, it's not. The EP morphs, grooves and oozes its way through layered, heady soundscapes interrupted at times by the thump of heavy bass or twitchy guitars.
"I Could Only See Clouds" rides along a simple detuned chord until electronic bleeps and a rollicking tom beat drop into place. Meanwhile, "Futuristic Hallucination", is exactly how it sounds: gurgling synths and drifting melodies that make for one of the EP's more challenging cuts. "The Bat" maintains that challenging experimental vibe as it crawls along a loose-as-hell drum beat and subdued vocals that inject the tune with an extra shot of creepiness.
Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk reaches its prog-rock apex on "Living", however. The seven-minute piece features a droning rhythm that at first feels repetitive until it sucks the listener in like a great art house flick. Even more pleasing is how the following track, "Transform!!!", comes barging out of the gate with a savage bass riff and rubbery falsetto vocals.
The wheels come off a bit at the end when Electric Würms attempt a cover of Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise". Their effort is quite lackluster as their attempt skips the schizophrenic opening, and instead Electric Würms bypass the unbridled energy of the original in favor of a slow-paced ballad that is rather disappointing.
While the record is proggy in all the right places, it's disappointing in its execution. It's safe to say that anyone who has kept up with the Lips over the past few years wouldn't notice a difference between Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk and any recent Flaming Lips record.
Musically, it's quite similar to the psychedelic rock meets jazz vibe of the Flaming Lips' 2009 record Embryonic, and the EP's production even resembles Embryonic's bleak lost-in-deep-space atmospherics. Additionally, if Electric Würms really is Drozd's project, you wouldn't be able to tell by the vocals. Although Coyne claims to take a backseat as the group's noisemaker and motivator, he sounds as prominent as ever here.
Without any true sonic signifiers to really separate this record from Drozd and Coyne’s primary outfit, it simply feels like another of the Flaming Lips' disposable ideas that are fun for a few weeks – maybe even a month or two. But when the novelty wears off, all that's left is a mediocre product. It may be better to simply throw on The Soft Bulletin to hear Drozd and Coyne at their best rather than an aggravatingly familiar rehash.