Search The Line of Best Fit
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The Flaming Lips and Deap Valley team up for a beguiling and bewildering collaboration on Deap Lips

"Deap Lips"

Release date: 13 March 2020
DEAP LIPS album artwork3
13 March 2020, 12:28 Written by Udit Mahalingam
Musical iconoclasts with a penchant for the avant-garde, The Flaming Lips are no strangers to proffering strange yet oddly enticing collaborations to the public (all in the name of experimentation of course).

One needn't look further than Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, their 2015 project with the infamous pop icon which, despite its fleeting gems, was muddied by its air of self-indulgence.

To describe their oeuvre as unpredictable would be an understatement. So, when it was announced that they were teaming up with Deap Vally, the riotous Cali-rock sisterhood, one couldn’t help but anticipate with equal parts intrigue and scepticism at what would be brought to the table.

The result, Deap Lips, is less of a synthesis and more of a compromise. A diamond in the rough rather than a crown jewel. Undoubtedly more experimental than the Lips’ last collaborative effort, the music is still tinged with that same whiff of self-indulgence. As a result, Deap Vally’s trademark riffs are sometimes lost in a thick gauze of psychedelia, their lyrics ringing dissonantly against a torrent of electric and acoustic guitars.

However, that isn’t to say there aren’t fine moments on this album. “Home Thru Hell” and “Hope Hell High” are beguiling, sonically inversive mood-suites that offer a trippy rendering of the wild west: “Riding along through the deep valley / Where the dragons of madness roam”, so drones the opening track, expanding into a thunderdome-esque soundscape of pure distortion.

“Wandering Witches” is another particularly noteworthy track; a genre-blending deluge of synths that could just as easily fit in an artist such as Blood Orange’s catalogue. Deap Vally’s lyrics are fragmentary - atmospherically so - and are delivered with remarkable poise: “When you search for joy / You always find pain / The wandering witches have turned off the switches / To the lag that’s in your brain”. The constant references to emotional and physical border-crossings on this album belie the static mental wastelands inevitably stumbled upon by the collective - whether through intention or accident. This sonic and lyrical third space is the lynchpin of this record, driving its heartbeat with surprising verve and rhythm.

Nonetheless, “Deap Lips” could have done with better fine-tuning, which is ironic seeing as though the Lips have prided themselves in dismantling musical conventions as arbitrary and subjective as ‘pitch’. Interludes such as “Shit Talkin” and “Love is Mind Control” inevitably drag the album on, providing it with a solipsistic weight that undermines its overall vision. It’s as if the group had mastered the art of indie-rock, its dizzying eccentricity, only to lose their fundamental essence in its endless swirl.

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