I’ve been listening to The Flaming Lips 7 Skies H3 a lot since RSD and I have to say that it’s probably my favorite Lips release since Embryonic. I think I’m pretty accurate in saying that I’m speaking to a room of about 10 people that even give a s**t, but I’m going to keep talking regardless.
There was a time about two years ago where I felt the Lips had worn out their “freak out” welcome, driving the psych and sex train into the ground. Uncle Wayne’s schtick was getting kinda lame and all the talk of acid and drugs seemed to be in poor taste given that the Lips secret weapon, Steve Drozd, was a recovering heroin addict. It’s safe to say without Drozd, Coyne would be mowing lawns in Norman, OK for a living right now and not reigning as the King of Freakdom like he is today. The Heady Fwends album from 2012, while fun and interesting at the time hasn’t really held up except for a couple standout tracks. The Terror was a heavy and intense record that felt like something real, but it also felt like its blood was pumped with a robotic heart and not one of real flesh. It was heady, heavy, and cold. The Peace Sword ep was a step into the light a bit….a welcome sound. But now we have 7 Skies H3, the best record The Flaming Lips have released in 5 years.
Let me step back a bit. This 50 minute RSD 2014 release is just a nearly one hour chunk of the 24 hour song the Lips recorded back when gummy vaginas and gummy skulls containing flash drives were all the rage. One freakout gimmick after another was falling out of Wayne Coyne’s gummy head, and on a daily basis it seemed. When the 24 hour song thing came up I just sighed and thought “Sure. Whatever.” Well I think the Lips thought the same thing and came to the conclusion that they should whittle this music adventure down into non-gargantuan portions. The result was 7 Skies H3. It’s this cohesive musical exploration of, in my opinion, someone losing their mind. It’s at times melancholy, strange, brash, and downright noisy. I feel it’s a continuation of The Terror, but a human one. An earthbound interpretation of doom and gloom. It has the vibe of a Giallo soundtrack. Part Walter Rizzati, part Goblin. “7 Skies H3(Can’t Shut Off My Head)” is mournful with it’s synths and Wayne Coyne’s voice hovering. It’s over 8 minutes of sadness and beauty. The Lips haven’t sounded this real in a long time. “Meepy Morp” sounds like a dream sequence into another realm. The beauty of this record is that everything flows effortlessly into one another…that is if you have the vinyl version. This opinion is solely based on the vinyl copy. The digital, while you still get the gist, isn’t the same experience. “Riot In My Brain!!” is just that. It’s an explosion of meters running red, much like some of Embryonic’s noisier moments. This is probably the noisiest moment of the album. The “7 Skies” returns toward the end and finishes out on the quite lovely “Can’t Let It Go”, with that beginning musical idea still running deep throughout.
If this album was truly created out of 24 hours of musical craziness my hat is off to the band for giving us something so cohesive, insightful, and emotional even. I know the band seems to be back on the freaky thing, with the Electric Wurms project, as well as the Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album coming up. Hopefully they return to some more earnest and honest music after all that. 7 Skies H3 to me is a light at the end of the tunnel. A glimpse at the band I fell hard for on The Soft Bulletin.
It’s a shame then that such an amazing album was wasted on the whimsy of a RSD release. I think that hanging over 7 Skies H3 has sort of downplayed the magnificence of this record. Sadly, many RSD releases have the aura of “novelty” and “gimmick” hanging over them. The Lips have helped in creating that aura, too. But they’ve also been champions of the annual music store holiday as well. They’ve unfortunately been swallowed by their own hullabaloo. In my opinion they should’ve just gone more global with the Tame Impala split and made 7 Skies H3 an official Lips release. Why? Well for one when you go to a record store a week after RSD and there’s still copies of 7 Skies H3 lying around the magic of the RSD release seems to shrink and shrivel. It also makes those fans that snagged a copy on RSD feel like that catch wasn’t as special. Also, and this is my personal opinion, RSD releases should remain physical copies and physical copies alone. Again, when those guys and gals that hung out in front of a record store on RSD for hours to get a limited edition RSD release see that same album they waited so long for on a streaming site or on Amazon, it tends to take away from that special feeling. I searched all over the city to find a copy of Heady Fwends. When I finally found it at the last record store before I left town in April of 2012 I was thrilled. It was like finding the golden ticket. Then when I saw it on sale on Amazon, and streaming on Spotify and Rdio, well it lost a bit of its luster for me. I even felt a little bit betrayed even. The limited edition, the rarity of those releases, that’s what makes them so special.
But the main reason this album should’ve been an actual and official Flaming Lips release is because it’s too damn good to be lost in hullabaloo. If you’re a Lips fan and you spin records but you haven’t bought this album yet, do yourself a favor and snag a copy. There’s still plenty out there to be had. In years to come when people look back at the Flaming Lips’ career in awe, disgust, and disbelief, this will be the album they will talk about as being a lost gem. I guarantee.