The Flaming Lips’ American Head is dreamy, ethereal, and extremely psychedelic
After a series of fantastic singles throughout the summer, The Flaming Lips have finally released their 16th studio album, American Head. Their latest album is decidedly more influenced by dream pop aesthetics than some of their previous releases, with gently distorted textures providing the primary backbone of most of the tracks.
American Head is a surefire return to form for the psychedelic rock band who have been releasing music since 1986. While it may not be as consistently intriguing as records like Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots or The Soft Bulletin, American Head’s more subdued approach to psychedelia is certainly a unique: some of the tracks here are downright gorgeous, a quality I can’t necessarily ascribe to many prior Flaming Lips albums. “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad” is an especially beautiful track, with an earnest piano line and cello stabs underscoring lines like “I almost pulled through / But in the end / I won’t see you tonight / Mother, please don’t be sad.”
There’s a lot of empty space here, with vaguely Pink Floyd-esque melodies floating across the mix at times, set against laid-back, washed-out instrumentation. The Flaming Lips isn’t too shy about the psychedelic influences on this record. Some of the best song titles are almost hilariously explicit and transparent: “At the Movies on Quaaludes,” “Mother I’ve Taken LSD,” “You n Me Sellin’ Weed,” and “When We Die When We’re High” are certainly some of the standout tracks on American Head. “You n Me Sellin’ Weed” features an incredibly compelling string line, cutting through waves of noise, despite its placement further back in the mix.
The penultimate track, “God and the Policeman,” boasts a Kacey Musgraves feature; a perfect marriage of psychedelic country and psychedelic rock. It’s an interesting duet to say the least, and as the shortest track on the record, it feels a little underdeveloped. While American Head is one of the more minimalist records that the Flaming Lips have put out, “God and the Policeman” would benefit from extra complexity. Kacey Musgraves’ vocals are as effortlessly beautiful as ever, though, and her Southern twang provides a cutting layer of realism and Americana to the album.
American Head, at its core, is one of the best Flaming Lips albums from the past few years. Their detour toward dream pop is endlessly compelling, and they manage to maintain the same psychedelic feel that defined their earlier sound while incorporating soft — even beautiful, at times — textures and sounds.
Listen to The Flaming Lips’ American Headhere.