Wayne Coyne says the Flaming Lips’ latest effort, King’s Mouth (out this Record Store Day), is “a children’s album.” Hearing him describe the concept, though, it’s certainly no Kidz Bop. “It’s about a giant king who saves a little town, but dies in an avalanche,” he explains. “Instead of making a statue out of him, the town just cuts off his head, because his head connects to the universe, which everybody can go inside his mouth to see.”
Sure, you could say the Oklahoma outfit’s shtick for the past 35 years — whimsical psych-pop, animal costumes, Coyne crowd-surfing in a giant inflatable bubble — has always exuded a childlike innocence. But at 58, newly married and with his first kid on the way, Coyne seems to be soaring to a next level of imagination and wonder that’d give Peter Pan palpitations. “Art really unlocks some covered-up paths to your childhood,” he says. “The older I get, the more I feel I know those first years of my life better. Or maybe I’ve just spent more time making up a lie I tell myself!”
As they approach their golden years, the Flaming Lips are raving against the dying of the light. There’s their ongoing friendship with Miley Cyrus — they co-produced her Dead Petz album; she and Coyne got matching torso tattoos — and their last LP, Oczy Mlody, which was laden with trap-inspired beats. Hey, it’s better than playing the oldies circuit.
King’s Mouth is rooted in Coyne’s 2015 art installation of the same name. It featured a gigantic metallic head, beckoning visitors to crawl inside and experience an LED light show synchronized to ambient Flaming Lips music. The band decided to reverse-engineer an LP out of its soundtrack, even recruiting the Clash’s Mick Jones to narrate over it. Like the best Lips material, it sounds like a paranoia-free acid trip. “People get scared when you say it’s children’s music,” Coyne admits, “but what we mean is we’re not being overly aggressive or noisy or existential with this one.”
You might assume this album was made for Coyne’s future son — but apparently, he was reverse-engineered, too. Coyne says his wife got pregnant well into the recording process. Traditional trajectories aren’t his bag, anyhow. “This is the coolest, most creative, happiest time I’ve ever had,” he says. “It’s usually dudes who are, like, 38 who think, ‘Everything sucks and it’s all been done.’ But you’ll get over that, man. I have so much energy. I feel like I can live to be 200 years old if I’m lucky enough! Shit!”