After a certain point in a band’s career, it must get difficult to summon the excitement of making music the same way they always have. Think about it – after a while, it must get hard to feel as though you’re pushing the creative envelope while also trying to appease your fan-base and not alienate them – how does a group do both? Is there a way for a band to challenge both themselves and their fans without possibly alienating them? It’s a dicey proposition, but Flaming Lips veterans Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd may have found a simple, beautiful way: they’ve re-imagined their working arrangement and called it Electric Würms.
For Würms’ debut EP, Coyne and Drozd lay their idea out simply for listeners to take of leave at their leisure (but they want to realize it anyway); here, Coyne has stepped back from the microphone and into a producer/instrumentalist role, and Drozd has abandoned his keyboards to take the ‘singer’ seat. With that dynamic redefined, the duo has gone a step further and enlisted the members of Linear Downfall to fill out the rest of the project’s sound and help push some of their ideas in hopes of finding some new and fertile creative ground. It’s actually a really ambitious endeavor.
“Ambitious sure, but did it work?” you demand. In listening to Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk – Electric Würms’ first EP – the easiest way to qualify the results is to say that their experiment worked, but the results may take a bit of getting used to because it has none of the pop base that Flaming Lips does which may sound off-putting – until one considers that the ‘pop’ in The Flaming Lips is a comparatively recent addition to the band’s repertoire. With that addition out, listeners will quickly realize that Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk sounds a lot like music which might have been inspired by the band who made Hear It Is, Hit To Death In The Future Head and In A Priest Driven Ambulance, made with the help of some twenty-first century technology and informed (albeit ironically) by twenty-first century dance floors.
The images of those dance floors (or rather, a dramatic dawning image of them) is the first thing that begins to manifest as “I Could Only See Clouds” gently fades in to open Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk. There, ambient synths erect an unsettling, methodical backdrop which builds as the volume of those synths increases, and it only moves when it suddenly winks out to make way for a modal, new wave-y guitar hook from Chance Cook. It’s almost comical how all movement stops as if to pause for a grand gesture before bursting forth with a sound that is equal parts garage rock, DIY sci-fi and trance-y dance music, but that’s exactly how it goes and more than a few listeners will find themselves falling over themselves to embrace it. The result is, in its own way, a fantastic achievement or the band because it’s easy to see where it’s coming from and where the movement is headed, but it’s still pretty joyous anyway.
After “I Could Only See Clouds” sets the standard for Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk, the follow-up track, “Futuristic Hallucination,” coasts on the first wave cast by the EP’s opening track about as much as its title implies before building up its power and charging out again with “The Bat.” On “The Bat,” Charlee Cook’s bass, the guitars supplied by Dom Marcoaldi and Chance Cook, and Will Hicks’ drums really present themselves as an elemental force – not just some background noodling to fill out the musings of Drozd and Coyne – and not only drive the song but supply the flavor which makes it most memorable; the pulse of Cook’s bass makes for a harrowing trip where crackling electronics poke through at unusual angles with eery irregularity and, drifting almost on the outermost periphery, Drozd mutters some truly fatalist knowledge (see “It cannot happen again/ But it happens every time/ We think that we are dreaming/ But the dream runs out of time” for a sample) perfectly encapsulates the hopelessness of the song. It is sadly beautiful and hopeless, but it catches listeners well and keeps them aboard regardless of the fact that the sound is nowhere near what they expected to experience from this EP.
After a hasty flip of the record, listeners will be excited to find that the second side of Musik, die Schwer zu Twerk begins much the same way the first did but, now, the band seems more emboldened after having overcome their nerves first side and emerging unscathed. With phasing guitars, a metronomic rhythm and growling distortion cresting up into and then receding from the mix, “Living” twinkles with hope, possibility and power as Drozd appears with some perfectly reaffirming sentiments (“Live as if you were/ Living already for/ The second time”) backed by a second voice echoing him as a show of solidarity and really manages to infuse the feeling of hope in listeners; the song is seven minutes long and, by the end, those who run through it with the band will find they’re filled with hope and happiness – even if the lyric sheet was really only two sets of four lines. They’ll find that “Transform!!!” is even more rewarding as it journeys into a very acid-touched funky rhythm and leaves “Heart Of The Sunrise” to resolve the whole the EP with a song which encapsulates all of the feelings the others did (discussions of travel and tribulation echo through here, all for love in the end) and still leaves the possibilities broached open in the end for further exploration on future releases. It’s actually a really uplifting and warm conclusion for a set of songs which so regularly stuck to dark the shadows and darkness, and really leaves listeners wondering what the future will bring from this band.
(Flaming Lips/ Warner Brothers)
Ground Control Magazine – “Bands In Tandem – A Flaming Lips Brainstorm Gives Birth to Electric Würms” – [Feature]