The William Blakes | Wayne Coyne
Most Likely To: confuse the hell out of Flaming Lips fans looking for a solo album.
It takes a great deal of chutzpah to name an album after a current musician, and even more so to plaster a mock classical painting of his face on the cover. It takes an equal amount to name your band after a beloved visionary poet of two centuries past. Fortunately for the Danes who comprise The William Blakes, they chose wisely on both counts. They named their album after an individual more likely to take delight in the joke than to instigate litigation, and named their band after a poet with whom they actually share a worldview.
Any band naming their album Wayne Coyne could reasonably be expected to draw inspiration from The Flaming Lips, and there are definitely traces of that band’s influence in The William Blakes’ sound. While they eschew the freakier side of the Lips’ persona, the Blakes do traffic in gently eccentric pop that echoes The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots without ever aping either album. In fact, as often as not they sound more like Tears for Fears than the Lips, especially on tracks like “Secrets of the State,” “Violent God,” and “The Magician,” which recall that duo at their grandiose best. Elsewhere, the Blakes go for a more upbeat pure-pop sound with “On Fire” and “Science is Religion.”
The title cut is one of the songs on the album that sounds the least like The Flaming Lips, but is perhaps the one that best captures the spirit of Wayne Coyne himself. The Blakes blend Moody Blues-style ethereal harmonies over a pulsating techno backing for what feels like a bizarre update of the Moody’s “Legend of a Mind.” By the time a frenetic bass line enters the mix and the lyrics begin quoting the nonsense syllables from Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” the song has become so loony that Coyne most likely could only be proud that it bears his name.
Any band naming themselves after William Blake could reasonably be expected to delve in matters of religion and metaphysics, and the Danish combo indeed do so. They tackle the topic of religion head on and seem, like Blake himself, to be generally in favor of it but skeptical of what people do in the name of it. “Violent God” ponders the disconnect between people who claim to worship a God of love while doing their best to kill anyone who disagrees with them, while “Science is Religion” observes that those who discount religion are as married to their dogmas as the religious zealots they seek to discredit.
Wayne Coyne is not a perfect album and the back half definitely drags, though “The Magician” and the ethereal “Large Cities” go a long way towards livening things up. But as a debut, it’s a more than promising introduction to The William Blakes, and one that honors the spirits of both its namesakes.