Flaming Lips, Phoenix, Pete Yorn | Allstate Arena | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Fri., Dec. 11, 7 p.m. 2009
Price: $40-$50
When I wrote about the Flaming Lips for the Reader's coverage of this summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, I took them to task for settling into predictability over the past decade—and their set in Union Park, while it demonstrated their ability to raise the bar for showbiz spectacle, was as formulaic as ever. But then I heard their latest album, Embryonic (Warner Brothers). With this sprawling collection they've not only broken with the fizzy, overloaded psych-pop they've been playing since The Soft Bulletin but also made some of their weirdest music in 20 years. It's by no means perfect, and it's weighed down by the Flaming Lips' usual self-indulgence—at more than 70 minutes, it would've benefited from some editing—but it's as exciting as anything they've ever done, threading ghostly traces of pop melody into a collage of raw, throbbing post-Krautrock grooves, in-the-red noise, and flickering, abstract patterns of guitar and electronics. The music has the wanderlust and wide-open feel of electric-era Miles Davis, which is hardly a direction you'd expect from a band at the peak of their popularity; unlike their other recent records, it demands that you stick with it for the long haul, till you're sucked into its spacious vortex of sound and texture. I'm not confident that the band's live show will shift gears to keep pace with the new record, but now that the Lips have surprised me with Embryonic, I'm at least willing to hope they'll surprise me onstage. —Peter Margasak

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