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. But while the effort has little to no commercial hopes, this niche offering succeeds wonderfully at pleasing those more outside-the-box thinkers who are the core audience for druggy experiments still rooted (ever so loosely) in pop music (the band’s bio mentions acid in the first sentence, so that gives you an idea of what they are going for).
Though it is obvious why the choice was made to not release Musik, Die Shwer Zu Twerk as a Lips record (less Coyne, less accessible), the album isn’t a far stretch from the Oklahoma City outfit’s wheelhouse. “The Bat” jogs along with a doomy dread that Drozd owned on “Turning Violent,” almost sounding like a sequel of sorts to that song. The kraut rock of “The Second Time” is transportive in its effect, not unlike some of the EP work The Flaming Lips have offered up in recent years. And the gorgeous Yes cover “Heart of the Sunrise” isn’t unlike the prettier moments of The Soft Bulletin or Embryonic, but just a little more loose, a little more beaten down, a little more raw.
It’s hard to make an argument for anything here being essential for the Flaming Lips’ career arc, but, it is a side project, and as side projects go, this one is strong. Plus, it does allow the reflection of what a singular talent Drozd is, giving him the reins to explore something that represents his interests more than the band as a whole. Look no further than the all-in, fearless freakout “Transform” to see the possibilities of Electric Würms as a fully realized entity. Apparently, the concept of the band name refers to LSD users that believed they could transport into space without a spaceship, but as pure energy, when high. As a soundtrack for that mindset, you couldn’t do much better.