Bloated Crap or Sprawling Masterpiece?

Tusk, by Fleetwood Mac. The Final Cut, by Pink Floyd. Jazz, by Queen. Phantasmagoria, by the Damned. The Great Rock & Roll Swindle, by The Sex Pistols. Out Of The Blue, by E.L.O. Sandinista, by The Clash.

Embryonic, by The Flaming Lips.

All of the above were said to be bloated, pretentious works at the time they were released, but time has proven these to be cherished by millions of music lovers worldwide. Critically rehabilitated by the fans, so they say.

I have found that a good majority of albums that I instantly liked have drifted to the bottom of the heap while the ones that took more work to get into, the challenging ones, often rise to the top after a while. Some exceptions to the rule: Nick Lowe’s “Jesus Of Cool”, My Morning Jacket’s “Z”, Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica”, Joe Jackson’s “Look Sharp!”, etc.

Embryonic, 2 years after its initial release, is still polarizing casual and hardcore fans. Here’s a current review from Amazon:

“It (Embryonic) is just too out there! It is like the Band said ‘umm, let’s take some Shrooms like the old days and have our great producer make this record sound as fuzz and loud and distorted as Sleater Kinney’s-‘The woods! I love ‘The Soft Bulletin’; this is just too loud and too obscure and too muddled and just plain too much. Thumbs down. One or two songs are good but the rest seems like a futuristic Syd Barret record. Get back to normalcy guys!”

Me, I love this record, but it took time. As a matter of fact, I traded it in and found myself re-buying the same damn copy a month later!
Embryonic is held together by weird little electronic instrumentals based on the signs of the zodiac, which sounds very proggy and pretentious on paper, but works as sonic glue. This is an album driven by the rhythm section, where fuzz bass and compressed drums are allowed to roam rampant; it’s a groove album. Live with it a while and it’ll be worth it.

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