The Flaming Lips have always strived to sound more Plutonian than American, but their dreamy psychedelia has nonetheless epitomised the US psych-pop strain for decades. So when Tom Petty’s death inspired them to embrace their Americana roots, it was in characteristically fantastical manner.
Imagining the record Petty’s Heartbreakers might have made if Wayne Coyne’s elder brother had sold them drugs on their brief visit to Oklahoma City in the early 70s, they carry over the synthetic psych haze and celestial melody of 2017’s Oczy Mlody and last year’s fairytale concept album King’s Mouth into a record (their sixteenth) steeped in the hallucinogenic aura and underlying tragedy of the hippie dream.
For every idyllic, swelling vision of the Coyne brothers’ drug-drenched 70s (You N Me Sellin’ Weed couches tales from Wayne’s pot-dealing youth in blow-back textures; At The Movies On Quaaludes blisses out at the cineplex like Burt Bacharach on barbiturates) there are tales of busts, robberies, fatal crashes and, on the future-flamenco Assassins Of Youth, even school shootings.
‘Now I see the sadness in the world,’ goes the euphoric orchestral peak of Mother I’ve Taken LSD, encapsulating the beatific melancholy that envelops American Head.
A crystalline classic.