The Flaming Lips’ “King’s Mouth”

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Rating: 8.6

The Flaming Lips released their fifteenth studio album, “King’s Mouth” on Record Store Day earlier this year. This exclusive release consisted of only 4,000 copies printed on gold vinyl and distributed to participating independent record stores. A later release of the album is scheduled for July.

Along with the release of the album, the Flaming Lips released additional content to support “King’s Mouth”. In some ways, it’s just one aspect of the entire King’s Mouth experience. Wayne Coyne’s art installation of the same name incorporates the music from the album to create an immersive musical experience. Coyne also wrote and illustrated a book entitled, “King’s Mouth: Immerse Heap Trip Fantasy Experience”.

“King’s Mouth” follows the release of The Flaming Lips’ 2017 album “Oczy Mlody”, which featured a one track collaboration with Miley Cyrus. While its predecessor shares that certain fantastical quality that the Lips are known for, “King’s Mouth” presents a more refined and controlled concept album that’s refreshing in its joyfulness.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips were making their weird blend of experimental and psychedelic rock for over two decades before their mainstream breakthrough with 2002’s “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, and the follow up, “At War With the Mystics” in 2006.

Led by their eccentric frontman Wayne Coyne, the Lips have never been afraid to continue experimenting with their sound from album to album. It might be one of the reasons why they’ve managed to earn three Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Instrumental Performance, for their efforts.

King’s Mouth

“King’s Mouth” is a concept album that charts the life and death of a benevolent giant king who saves the people of his city. Each song of the 12-track album serves as a chapter that advances the story forward.

The album opens with “We Don’t Know How And We Don’t Know Why”, narrated by Mick Jones of The Clash. In it, we’re greeted to a familiar sonic landscape reminiscent of some tracks from “At War with the Mystics”. The swirling of synthesizers serves as the backdrop for Jones’ narration, in which he describes how the King’s mother died after giving birth to him.

In “The Sparrow”, a nameless citizen of the city mourns the loss of the queen as the baby king sleeps in his cradle. The growth of the new king is then accelerated in “Giant Baby”, another track featuring narration by Mick Jones.

“The giant newborn grew into a giant little boy
It wasn’t easy to find him giant baby toys
He loved outer space and he loved the sky
He would reach up to touch it, but it was too high”

Concept Cohesion

“King’s Mouth” is filled with bright melodies, high-energy rhythms, and heartfelt lyrics. It’s true success, in my opinion, comes from crafting a cohesive storytelling experience, that reaches to grasp the big questions of life, death, and love. Even so, the Lips are a whimsical bunch, and there’s plenty of room in “King’s Mouth” light comedic relief.

One track that brings out the whimsy more than others is “How Many Times”. The track opens with a robotic voice counting over and over to an infectious and bouncy melody. Within the context of the album’s story, it stands in for the early learning years of childhood.

“Electric Fire” features a groovy, magical synth arrangement fit for when the giant gains the knowledge of the universe, in a kind of epic, coming of age moment. After this, “All for the Life of the City” describes the benevolent king’s moment of sacrifice, in which he holds back the snow of an avalanche from destroying the city. Here the Lips balance the sadness of loss with the joy of life, and it’s one of my favorite tracks.

Following it, “Feedaloodum Beedle Dot” is a celebratory track as the citizens cut off the king’s head. Then comes more celebration with back to back instrumentals, “Funeral Parade” and “Dipped in Steel”. “Mouth of the King” and “How Can a Head??” close the album out with messages of optimism that touch on the magical nature of existence.

Final Thoughts

Listening to “King’s Mouth” isn’t like listening to any other album. By fully integrating the story of the giant king into the very fabric of the album, you can’t really get the same experience by listening to a single track. Judging by how immersive the album itself is, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to listen to it in tandem to walking through Coyne’s art installation.

The only downside I can find in “King’s Mouth” is that I feel it’s too short, and I want more. But maybe it was a wise decision to keep it concise and to the point. As it stands, not a single track on the album feels out of place or unnecessary.

 

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