Published on August 22nd, 2014 | by Dave Scaddan0
Electric Würms – Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk
Steven Drozd is the often unsung member of The Flaming Lips that works in Wayne Coyne’s shadow; on Electric Würms, he steps into the limelight.
It would seem that despite being one of the more prolific and malleable bands of their era, The Flaming Lips are still forcing themselves into new territory and refusing to stagnate. Amidst their recent plans to release a tribute/cover album of ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ collaborate with Miley Cyrus and retool their band lineup to replace Kilph Scurlock with two drummers, Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne have also formed a new band. Electric Würms is Drozd’s chance to take over as vocalist and frontman (as he has been on more Lips’ tracks on their last two albums anyway) while Coyne simply plays bass and adds a few noises. A band called Linear Downfall provides the rest of the backing music, taking this project down an indulgent prog-rock path.
The six tracks on offer here don’t stray too far from the freaky, weird-for-weird’s-sake sound that Drozd and Coyne have shared on ‘The Terror’ and ‘Embryonic’ in recent years, but there’s a free-form experimental vibe on ‘Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk’ that distinguishes it from the odd, yet tightly arranged offerings of the Lips’ third millennium work. Coyne and Linear Downfall support these songs from the edges, gliding along with each track like a band that’s casually jamming with whatever Drozd brings to the table. Despite a lot of wacky noises infiltrating each number, the combined result is quite smooth, rhythmic, sometimes even catchy.
This EP proves that Drozd has always been a more essential component of The Flaming Lips than Coyne’s powerful presence as frontman would ever allow us to fully recognize. Coyne has always been a brilliant idea man, but any live Lips show from any era will indicate that what we hear has much more to do with Steven, while what we see and feel usually has more to do with Wayne. In an old interview of Gibby Haynes after the dissolution of The Butthole Surfers, he was asked what Wayne Coyne (who borrowed heavily from BHS in the early days of the Lips) had that allowed him to keep his band going and growing when so many of his freaky contemporaries couldn’t. Without as much bitterness as his curt answer might imply, Gibby responded by saying simply, “Steven.” ‘Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk’ is not a Steven Drozd solo album, but it’s as close to that as anything else we have, and it’s an emergence from the muted Lips persona that will leave the listener wanting more.
After three short tracks of psychedelic jamming, ones that are forgivingly brief and efficient in their delivery, the EP really gets cooking with a song called, ‘The Second Time,’ based on a stark, Joy Division style drum pattern and a sparse battery of twinkled synths and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’-tinged space effects. This standout doesn’t sound so much like it’s played by a band — it could easily be imagined as just Drozd with a few pedals and keys and a few lines of lyrics on a page. But then, on ‘Transform!!!,’ the most exciting song of the six, the ghost-of-Syd Barrett vibe is maintained, while the sound clearly becomes that of an ensemble, possibly pulling it off live in the studio. At this point, it’s obvious that Electric Würms are a tight, pulsing band that offer more than the sum of their parts.
Drozd’s vocals sound just as delicate and squeaky as when he gently chirps the words “Thank You” after The Flaming Lips have wowed an audience with an extended live freak-down. Steven’s voice is really just another instrument used subtly in the mix for the first five tracks; where it really emerges is in Electric Würms’ cover of ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ (yes, the epic Rick Wakeman opus that closes the 1971 album ‘Fragile’). Singing someone else’s song is what really proves that Drozd has the ability to be the frontman and the focal point of an intriguing and entertaining band. Here he’s a little more forceful and moody, but still with that high-register coo that’s graced more than a few of the better Lips songs in the last few years.
Probably the best thing about this release is that it’s an EP. The tight, half-hour format doesn’t allow ‘Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk’ to delve into too much of the freaky, spacey indulgence that could’ve drowned it in the same sea where Emerson, Lake and Palmer buried many a barnacle. As this lineup tours and records more, (as they say they plan to) they may well find several albums worth of interesting material to present to the listening public. For now, Electric Würms have just enough material to sound a little like a curiously new arrangement of a great, old band, and a little like a sonic genius getting a somewhat reluctant taste of the spotlight. Their music is soothing, yet strange, fresh, yet familiar, and, I can assure you, practically impossible to twerk to.