Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
As is so often the case with The Flaming Lips, the glee with which they approach their numerous side trips implies that they may never tire of psychedelia and psychedelics. The Electric Würms project teams Wayne Coyne and fellow Flip, Steven Drozd, with their exhibitionist, experimentalist kinfolk in Linear Downfall to heady, phantasmal effect. Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk – “Music, hard to twerk to,” according to this writer’s schoolboy German (it probably doesn’t mean anything like that, given that this writer didn’t in fact study German while at school) – rarely comes down from the krautrock klouds over the course of its 30-minute running time.
Though frontman Wayne Coyne receives the bulk of attention when discussing The Flaming Lips, even the most cursory exploration of their catalog reveals the importance of multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd in their sound and their compositions. For more proof, look no further than The Terror’s standout track, “Turning Violent,” where Drozd takes lead and provides a whole new world of tension with his fragile, cracked vocals. Thus, a side project: Electric Würms, with Drozd taking lead, Coyne relegated to bass and four members of Nashville band Linear Downfall providing the backing for a Yes-influenced, prog-rock diversion that is hard to believe a major label delivered in 2014.
The press release for Electric Würms’ debut sketches a fantastical mythology about super-acid, spaceships and sonic bibles, which ‘Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk’ purports to be a reading of. For the benefit of the more literal-minded, let’s just call it the product of Flaming Lips members Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd combining with Nashville psych-rockers Linear Downfall to piece together the weirdest cosmic collage they possibly could. At 30 minutes long, the trip is brief, but it covers so much ground – from krautrock to prog-punk to ambient psych – it almost seems to move faster than light.
With the release of Embryonic in 2009, the Flaming Lips ushered in yet another era in their continually evolving brand of psychedelic insanity, diving into the realms of prog, Krautrock, and Miles Davis-inspired musical freakouts with reckless abandon. Along with producing some of the band's most exciting work in years, the album also kicked off an unprecedented prolific streak, with new musical experiments arriving at an amazing clip. Where other musicians might be content with putting out over a dozen releases in five years, Lips' members Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd continue their relentless pursuit of crunchy, prog-perfection with their new side project, Electric Würms, making their exploratory and mind-expanding debut with Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk.
Flaming Lips fandom in the 21st-century requires agreeing to the terms of this transaction: in exchange for receiving a non-stop stream of new, consistently adventurous music from your favorite band, you have to put up with Wayne Coyne’s Instagram skeeziness, and all the #freaks hashtags, exclamation-point abuse, and Miley Cyrus tongue-wagging selfies that go with it. Seems like a fair enough trade-off, but even those fans who are most tolerant of Wayne’s social-media madcappery had to be thinking “really, dude?” last spring when some especially ill-advised photos led to accusations of racism, and the extremely acrimonious ousting of long-time Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock (the fallout from which continues to spread). In light of this, the debut of the Lips’ prog-inspired alter-ego act the Electric Würms couldn’t have come at a better time.
Wayne Coyne has a tendency to spout nonsense when he’s let near a press release, and the accompanying bumpf for the debut record from Flaming Lips spin off Electric Würms doesn’t disappoint: It all began in the Seventies when someone invented the right kind of acid that could make you fly! It seemed that everything was, at last, possible. And the overly optimistic freaks of the day began flying into outer space. They flew in spaceships that were, at first, made of futuristic super metal but before too long they didn't even NEED ships.
The element of risk that comes with doing a side-project is inevitable. There’s the impending comparison to the vocalist’s first band, the once-loyal fans churning out incensed tweets – “Can’t believe Sonny Moore does dubstep now #sellout” - and the ever present threat that it will fall flat on its face because the only people who paid it any attention were those fans. From Thom Yorke to Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, everyone has had a go at the side project.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Electric Würms were first mentioned by Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist and all round freak Steven Drozd to Fuse.tv back in April of 2013, when he said the idea was "to get a psych-prog band going. Wayne wanted me to be this weird John McLaughlin-style front guy playing guitar with a crack team of prog musicians.
When my editor asked if I would be interested in the Electric Würms EP, the latest project by the Flaming Lips’ enigmatic frontman Wayne Coyne and de facto music director, Steve Drozd, the first thing I asked was if this was weird shit just for the sake of being weird. When answered with a “probably,” I took the bait. Considering the men behind the curtain, the artwork exploding in day-glo colors, the ridiculous-almost-to-the-point-of-pretentious descriptions presented in press releases, the album title, and even the spelling of the band’s name, expecting something weird or musically askew is not far from the realm of possibility.
It’s possible the Flaming Lips don’t know how to take a breather. Whether it’s getting tattoos with Miley Cyrus, recording an upcoming Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band tribute album or controversially parting ways with their drummer of the previous 12 years, the Oklahoma psych-rock stalwarts are always up to something. And that’s in addition to their seemingly endless tour schedule.
I went into Electric Würms already a fan of Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne, and with a soft spot for '70s prog. Yet this album left me a little confused. How does a side-project made up of the principle songwriters of a major indie-rock outfit qualify as a separate band? (And yes, prog bands do it all the time, but that doesn't make it any less strange.) And Muzik Die Schwer Zu Twerk would make a decent Lips album anyway, if it had at least a good pop song or two.
It’s been a weird ride for Wayne Coyne since The Flaming Lips released its magnificent 2002 record, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Since then, the restless frontman has, along with his band, released a back-to-front cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, collaborated with Chris Martin and Kesha, all while delving into more psychedelic, abstract sonic territory; and that’s all without mentioning that he’s set to release a Beatles cover album with Miley Cyrus this fall. Now Coyne has teamed up with fellow Flaming Lips band member Steven Drozd—Coyne on bass, Drozd on guitar and vocals—and experimental psych band Linear Downfall for a side project by the name of Electric Würms.