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Flaming Lips Road Test Dark New Tunes From "Embryonic" in L.A.

August 18, 2009 11:57 AM ET

The Flaming Lips' Embryonic isn't due out till October 13th, but last night at L.A.'s Greek Theatre, on the second date of their summer U.S. tour, the veteran Oklahoma City weirdoes debuted several tracks from the upcoming set, including "Convinced of the Hex," one of three Embryonic cuts featured on a new digital EP available for free to anyone who purchases a ticket to a Lips show.

Rolling Stone has heard all of Embryonic, and we can report that it rules; it's a dark, appealingly creepy return to the band's early psych-punk days but with the lush production values that have defined more recent (and more commercially robust) efforts like The Soft Bulletin and At War with the Mystics. (The Flaming Lips recorded the album with longtime producer Dave Fridmann.) Anyone convinced that frontman Wayne Coyne and his bandmates have been breathing recycled air for the last few years should prepare to be surprised.

At the Greek they dropped the new stuff — such as "Silver Trembling Hands," a sort of Krautrock-R&B slow jam — into the splashy multimedia spectacle familiar to anyone who's caught these guys live over the last few years: During "Race for the Prize" Coyne wheeled over audience members' heads in his clear plastic hamster ball, and the singer instructed fans to join him in a synchronized karate chop at various points throughout the title track from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which the band recast as a tinkly soft-rock ballad. Coyne dedicated a dreamy version of "Vein of Stars," from Mystics, to Karen O (who puts in a guest appearance on Embyronic), and begged the crowd not to tweet about the Lips' doing "Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear," as they'd promised folks at last month's Pitchfork Music Festival that they wouldn't play it anywhere else.

The band ended the show (which was opened by Ghostland Observatory and Stardeath and White Dwarfs, the latter of whom are fronted by Coyne's nephew Dennis) with the usual explosion of confetti and balloons, set to the winsome strains of "Do You Realize??" Embryonic suggests that the Lips have grown a little tired of their shiny-happy shtick, but Coyne's beaming grin made you think otherwise.

Set list:

"Race for the Prize"
"Silver Trembling Hands"
"The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song"
"Fight Test"
"Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear"
"Convinced of the Hex"
"Mountain Side"
"Vein of Stars"
"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1"
"Pompeii am Götterdämmerung"
"Taps/The W.A.N.D."
"Do You Realize??"

Related Stories:
Flaming Lips Unleash "See the Leaves," Embryonic Album Cover
Flaming Lips' Coyne Talks State Song Flap, Singing About Orgasms for Madonna Cover
Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize??" Voted Official Oklahoma Rock Song

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Song Stories

“Don't Dream It's Over”

Crowded House | 1986

Early in the sessions for Crowded House's debut album, the band and producer Mitchell Froom were still feeling each other out, and at one point Froom substituted session musicians for the band's Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. "At the time it was a quite threatening thing," Neil Finn told Rolling Stone. "The next day we recorded 'Don't Dream It's Over,' and it had a particularly sad groove to it — I think because Paul and Nick had faced their own mortality." As for the song itself, "It was just about on the one hand feeling kind of lost, and on the other hand sort of urging myself on — don't dream it's over," Finn explained.

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