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New releases from David Bowie, Mushroom, and The Flaming Lips 

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click to enlarge David Bowie
  • David Bowie

David Bowie

No Plan

Sony/Columbia

File next to: Robyn Hitchcock, Brian Eno, Neu!

No Plan is a four-song EP consisting of "Lazarus" — which appeared on the late artist's final album Blackstar — plus three others previously featured on the cast recording for Bowie's play Lazarus. The four tracks were pulled together for this Jan. 8 release, which coincided with what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday. Nevertheless, Sony/Columbia is justified in billing these versions as "Bowie's last sessions." The songs are suffused with the same eerie finality of a death foretold that defined his last album, begging the question of why they didn't make the cut for the album itself. No Plan is a necessary and critical addition to the Bowie canon, but it also draws a clear line in the sand. Future posthumous Bowie collections may prove valuable, but Blackstar and No Plan stand together as the last statements of an artist aware of his own mortality. — LW

click to enlarge Mushroom
  • Mushroom

Mushroom

Psychedelic Soul on Wax

Little Mafia Records

File next to: Brian Auger's Trinity, Can, David Byrne

The four cuts on Psychedelic Soul on Wax are as different from each other as can be. But then again, San Francisco Bay Area band Mushroom has always confounded easy classification. "Flesh Failures (Let the Sun Shine In)" is a cover of the hit tune from the Hair soundtrack, served up here in swinging soul jazz style. "Sneak Attack" is roaring, distorted guitar over a repetitive back beat; it's the group's latest display of their deep love of krautrock. "Bowed Gong" is a tasty instrumental that explores the part of the Venn diagram where psychedelia and soul intersect. The title track takes a speech by Eldridge Cleaver about Timothy Leary and applies a psych groove to it; the result is similar — but superior — to Leary's own "You Can Be Anyone This Time Around," which found Hendrix, Stills and friends playing while he pontificated. — BK

click to enlarge The Flaming Lips
  • The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Oczy Mlody

Warner Brothers

File next to: Mercury Rev, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine

Mere mention of Miley Cyrus collaborating again with Oklahoma City's Flaming Lips may frighten some, given the time-wasting nature of 2015's Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz album. But Oczy Mlody turns out to be that rare Flaming Lips work where Wayne Coyne dials down his absurdist tendencies in favor of a fantasy-infused sadness. Miley's main contribution is the lead vocal on "We a Family," though Wayne says her influence was critical for the whole album. Gentler tracks like "There Should Be Unicorns" and "Nigdy Nie (Never No)" try to preserve the band's trademark whimsy in the face of darkness, while recruiting Reggie Watts for spoken-word poetry eases the sadness somewhat. And while the end result may never achieve the majesty of 1999's The Soft Bulletin, The Flaming Lips at least show they can summon up serious intent for serious times. — LW

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