It’s been almost three years since the release of The Terror, The Flaming Lips' dark, panic-attack-inducing 14th record. Whilst it received a broadly positive response from critics at the time, it felt like a rather significant departure from the band’s aesthetic, rejecting the symphonic, euphoric rock of their previous studio releases in favour of harsher, more melancholic sounds. Thematically it also dealt with bleaker subject matter, focusing on death, violence and love that took inspiration from the breakdown of Wayne Coyne’s relationship with his partner, and Steve Drozd’s relapse.

Since then the band has continued on a fairly rocky path. There was the sudden - and acrimonious - departure of longtime drummer Kliph Scurlock, the lacklustre Electric Würms side project featuring Coyne and Drozd, as well as poorly-received collaborations Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz and With a Little Help From My Fwends. All of these projects seemed to see the band attempting to re-embrace the kooky, psychedelic image they had maintained for years prior to The Terror, but for whatever reason, the results often felt half-baked or even worse, entirely forced.

Oczy Mlody, unfortunately, does little to reverse the trend. The album wraps itself in weightless, spaced-out sonics that, despite occasionally recalling their earlier albums, do little to really hold attention. There’s some surprises to be found, such as the deep pulses of industrial bass found on ‘Nigdy Nie (Never No)’, but they are really few and far between. Instead the band seem to be trying to blur the sound of Soft Bulletin with a greater focus on electronic instrumentation - particularly with regards to percussion.

The problem with this mining of an older sound, is that too often you are reminded of the brilliance of those earlier albums, and find yourself wishing you were listening to those instead. ‘Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)’ is probably the most guilty of this, sounding like an rejected cut from The Soft Bulletin. The Flaming Lips have always worked best when they’re moving forward and changing their sound up; even if only slightly. The garage-psychedelia of The Soft Bulletin gave way to the cartoon symphony of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, which in turn was followed by the electro-freak-folk of At War With The Mystics.

Oczy Mlody at times feels like a pale imitation of The Flaming Lips, by someone who only knew of the band through their reputation for quirky antics and hyperactive, costumed live shows. The problem is that whilst it occasionally gets the stylistic elements right, there’s very little substance. ‘There Should Be Unicorns’ pairs falsetto vocal harmonies and chimes with a motorik rhythm section, in an experiment that seems to follow on from the longer, contemplative tracks of The Terror, yet it offers nothing more than a fantastical wish list for a party.

Even at their weirdest there has always been an emotional hook, or a narrative that made their music more than just an oddity. Themes of triumph over oppressive forces, existentialism, love, grief and so much more have been explored across The Flaming Lips' back catalogue. It’s ultimately what has made their music so life-affirming for so many people. This is something sadly lacking in Ozzy Mlody

Even worse, much of the music on Oczy Mlody is completely forgettable. Lead single ‘The Castle’ features a synthesizer melody that’s buried by the dull thud of a drum machine so deeply that it may as well not exist at all. Meanwhile, ’Listening To The Frogs With Demon Eyes’ lasts for 7 minutes, but recalling even 30 seconds of it is a struggle. The song’s instrumental seems to be constructed from several different songs on the album, certainly almost duplicating the chimes from ‘Galaxy I Sink’.

Tracks at the start of the record fare better. ‘How’ features a memorable, mournful piano melody that works perfectly alongside Coyne’s sorrowful voice, whilst ‘There Should Be Unicorns’' instrumental sketches an intoxicating groove. It’s just a shame that trying to dig a little deeper reveals a rather hollow experience.

The album closes with ‘We A Famly’, which sees another collaboration with Miley Cyrus, whose slurred vocal performance will do little to win over new fans. It’s a syrupy psych-pop track with all manner of audio effects thrown into the mix. Delay, reverb, pitch-shifting, even a little auto-tune - and that’s just the vocals. The result is a chaos of sound that leaves little direction for the listener. Should I feel euphoria from the synthesized strings, or should I feel melancholic from the mumbled, dejected vocals of Coyne and Cyrus? ‘We A Famly’ and the album as a whole, ends with laughter from the band, and all you can do is think, at least they had fun making it.