Wayne Coyne's take on each track of Embroynic, from the Fly.
‘Convinced Of The Hex’
Wayne says: “This was our first successful attempt at merging a low-fi distortion jam with hi-fi computer overdubs. This was the first in a series of lyrics inspired by repeated viewings of the controversial film ‘The Night Porter’ (made in 1974 by the radical Italian director Liliana Cavani). Its themes of submission and obsessions and cruelty and pleasure really put the zap on my sleep-deprived head.”
The Night Porter is an odd little movie that I can't imagine watching repeatedly, but it is a good odd little movie. Most people remember that the woman in it covers her nipples with swastikas made out of tape. Most people who have seen it have seen it because it's in the Criterion Collection.
‘The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine’
Wayne says: “A simple rhythmic mantra about the meaning of the concepts of power and submission and nature vs. technology – but not for defiant reasons – to be in awe of things that have power; even if it has the power to control you. To mentally get past the fear of being dominated and to embrace the realization of our helplessness.”
Wait, so not wanting to be spanked is about fear? I just don't want to be spanked.
Wayne says: “An underlying story of regretting not being able to detect and understand evil, being haunted by how kind, gentle creatures are easily overpowered by the violent, mean beings. Humans are capable of such horrible things and create so much suffering in the world.”
At some point in the future, the fact that evil overpowers the kind and the gentle has to give way to the realization that being kind and gentle is basically asking for it.
Wayne says: “Another of the early freak-out jams that showed us a new way. We began to name our free-form sessions using astrological signs. We didn’t know how many we’d end up with, so this naming system was a solution to keeping track. But it quickly began to colour what the little pieces of music meant. I guess everybody already has an abstract concept in their mind that is evoked by the zodiac stuff.”
I don't have an abstract concept in my mind when zodiac crap comes up. It's a very specific dislike, involving violence.
Okay, that's enough of that. Flaming Lips, Embryonic: it's an album. It's a long album, it's an old school double album, according to the Coyne. It's messy, indulgent, and Karen O recorded her vocals over the phone. It's extravagant for no reason other than being extravagant, it has a nice long nudie video where a bunch of naked hippies ride bikes and dance in the woods with a gigantic Muppet vagina, and the explanations for the songs stretch credibility so much that it almost seems like the Lips might be having a larf, or taking the piss, or however one phrases their personal version of "seriously?"
The Lips can come up with explanations until their hair falls out, what matters in music is the music, less so the creative process. (Which is more exciting? Watching Lebron James school the fuck out of the Lakers, or watching Lebron James run laps? One is magic, the other is practice.)
‘Watching The Planets’
Wayne says: “Tribal conquering dirge. Karen O kicks in singing with me and Steven. A final revelation that celebrates the power of nature and implies that the only laws worth obeying are the laws one makes for oneself. Experience is the only teacher…”
Experience is the only teacher, there's some truth to that. Exploration though--that's the theme of Embryonic, that's how it came about. Experience is the spine: the Lips couldn't have made a messy double album if they hadn't spent the post-Soft Bulletin period attempting various forms of controlled detonation. Again, it's the Derek Bailey thing, the Sonic Youth thing--improvisation sucks all of the time, every fucking time, except when it doesn't, which is almost never. And the only time that almost never becomes well okay, it's because the people involved know the rules: can they play a song. can they sing a song. can they make an album made up of songs they play and sing. And the Lips can, and the Lips have, and on Embryonic, the Lips did--their heaviest yet, their funniest yet. But unlike their previous hit records--and it's still a little bit odd to think that this band has actually produced hit records, but fucking A have they--Embryonic is a messy pile of laundry, dumped all over the floor of sound. It's big & stupid, it's horny & obnoxious, it's fucked up, and it's right. And what does Wayne have to say about what it was like to create it?"We did not think too much about what we were doing or what we would become."
Thank God for that.
-Tucker Stone, 2009