The Flaming Lips
The Only Band In The Bonanza Both A) To Have Performed On Beverly Hills 90210 and B) To Have Gotten Drunk With My Friend Terry
The Lineup Card (1983-2002)
Mark Coyne (vocals?) until 1985
Wayne Coyne (vocals, guitars, keyboards, etc.)
Michael Ivins (bass, keyboards)
Richard English (drums) until 1988
Nathan Roberts (drums) 1988-1992
Michael Donohue (guitars) 1990-1992
Ronald Jones (guitars) 1993-1996
Steven Drozd (drums, keyboards) after 1992
The Flaming Lips, more than any
other, are my band, a group of dudes I seriously took to my heart and rooted on
to, what seems like now to be the very top of cool, a computer ad on TV
featuring Wayne Coyne in a white suit and a bunch of people in bunny outfits
hopping around behind him. But it wasn't always such beans and grease for the Lips, oh no no no. They spent many long years laboring in the idiotic
local 'bar scene' of Norman, Oklahoma, where everyone shuts up for SportsCenter and going so far as to order a Heineken is
liable to get you thrown off the top of the athletic dorm. Yeah, this rotating
cast of potheads, with singer/twanger Coyne as frontman and bassist/straightman
Michael Ivins as the only two mainstays, are native
Oklahoma Citians, odd as it may be to some. Still
live there, actually, just a hop away from Rainbow Records off 23rd and Classen Rd., last time I checked (their house is the one
with all the Santas and Christmas lights on it in
August). They still do all their experiments in OKC first, then
Anyway, enough of my misty-eyed
nostalgia about the ol' times when I used to go to
college and smoke lots of weed and make out with easy chicks (not necessarily
in that order), the Lips nowadays are no longer quite so accessible, what with
all their NME covers and world-travelling and shit.
But if you can take the Lip out of
I guess what strikes me most about this band is how conventional they are despite all of their 3 1/2-sided packaging. Their first albums sound like nothing more than noisier and less sensitive Replacements, and even their noisiest distortion period is just moderately rabble-rousing. Their riffs are usually fairly solid, and even the most thick-headed .38 Special fan in the 'Barry Switzer Is God' t-shirt would at least think this band rocks pretty good. Or did, anyway, because Wayne has gotten bit by the big ol' bug known as Adulthood, and though his ideas are no less loopy (even worse, to be truthful), his chosen means of delivery has eschewed noise and loudness for layered madness, a little bit of straightjacket in each channel, if you know what I mean. And as long as his song descriptions start out like 'Well, we wanted to make this song about death and how all of us are going to someday leave our love ones' and end up like 'and that's when the dog started chewing exclusively on the big plastic bug toy from that day forward', we know that the spirit of the band is going to live on. They've already outlasted the cutthroat and ultra-cool-fascist alternative trenches of the late 80's, their short stint as a Buzz Bin artist, being 'the weird band with the four-CD album', to being the Next Cool Thing and beyond. And it's all been sorta amateurish, sorta dorky, a little too druggy, and endlessly interesting. God bless the Flaming Lips.
It Is -
Not an extremely fandango way to start the ol' career off, but what the hell, at least they weren't doing Goth like they had been. Nah, this is like I said above, loopier Replacements with fewer fart jokes and 'mature' songs about arty-farty friends and more songs about Godzilla and drugs. One this that's for sure is that if you come back from the noisy likes of Priest Driven Ambulance, you'll see what happens without all the noise and drama....you get fast garage rock. If you look back from Transmissions From The Satellite Heart you'll see that we've already got a pretty good handle on the concept of the hook as applied to a pop song (instead of, you know, like your eyeball or something), and if you've only heard Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi, you're going to just say 'Wha?'. I mean, this music is not made by professionals...they 'try' lots of things, no doubt in an attempt to be original, but more likely because they had no idea how to do it the right way in the first place. Take the 'deconstruction' in 'Staring At Sound With You (Reprise)'...is that a real attempt to shake up conventional song-structure, or just an attempt to shake off studio boredom by fucking around?
Eh, I'm giving it a B for listenability, not for their attempts at provocation like 'Jesus Shooting Heroin', which contains the toxin-influenced line 'I never really understood religion, except it seems a good reason to kill'...like right on man. I mean, if we could get everyone in the world just to sit around the lava lamp and take a few hits off the Starship Bong-prize here, I just know the world wouldn't be so damned violent and uptight about things like ages of consent and stuff....yeah man....I think I've decided to become a vegetarian and start snorting scag, whaddya think?
...anyway. Or their absolutely, painfully unoriginal idea of covering 'Summertime Blues' just like every other band ever in the existence of carbon-based lifeforms in the presence of sound-waves carried through the atmosphere in a harmonious fashion. Has any band ever not played this song? I mean, besides Orchestral Manoeuvers In My Anus? And while I'm at it, why does Wayne insist on totally singing the word 'Godzilla' in the most irritating possible way, while still managing to use his regular voice? Argh.....but then again, without these little bits and pieces of bone fragment to have to pick out of your Lip Sandwich, you'd never actually get the complete experience, would you? Their irritations and fuck-ups are lovable parts of the package.
am I actually going to start decribing the listenability of Hear It Is, anyway? Sometime
soon, I hope? Well, 'With You' is a good start, a nice combination of
loud-soft, without ever losing its sing-song simplicity and creeping
catchiness. Some would call it underdeveloped and juvenile,
I call it a pretty good rock song. Call me nuts, but the way the band falls in
underneath 'when I'm WITH YOU....when I'm WITH YOU....WHEN I'M.....' and then
drops back down to sweet major chords again is a little bit of a rush for me, kinda like how you always know the 12-bar turnaround is
always gonna come around like clockwork, but it still
affects you that little tiny bit. And I like the brave idiocy of 'Trains,
Brains, and Rain', which manages to be a fine little pop song that happens to
poke fun at pop song cliches and bad rhyming while
still being guilty of both. But does that song steal its ending from a
Capn's Final Word: Make them tell fart jokes and do Kiss covers and attend a New Yawk gallery opening on 'shrooms and you have most of the songs on Let It Be, and everyone fellates that album to death. Just dumb stoned kids making noisy, catchy pop noises over Led Zeppelin's own rhythm section.
Oh My Gawd...The Flaming Lips -
Th' Flamin' Li's put both tentacles forward and declare their oddness on Oh My Gawd, from the Iron Maiden/Deadhead/New Age blender mixture on the album cover to the, well, to the songs. I guess that's mostly what you end up getting when you plunk down your hard-earned nosh for a record album these days. Unless you're getting video clips and stuff, and I stopped caring about that after I spent 3 hours trying to get the 'enhanced features' on Wu Tang Forever to work, just to find out they were a bunch of snapshots and ads for Wu Wear. Nah...the only 'enhancement' you're gonna get is to melt down the vinyl and inject it into your soft tissue, which I hear will make you figure out that the album cover is actually minimalism at its very best. (No, really, I think one of the band members did this cover himself. Probably Ivins, the creep.)
Oh My Gosh continues in the 'Placemats'-sounding vein, but the Lips fumble ever onward to their chosen sound and manage to put their stamp on things a little more than on the debut. Or at least do things the way they feel like doing them....AMG calls 'One Million Billionth Of A Millisecond On A Sunday Morning' an Ummagumma wannabe, but when exactly on Ummagumma did Pink Floyd do anything this way-out frogdance trip-nasty? What, on 'Granchester Meadows'? Maybe, maybe on Saucerful of Secrets...but this is simply trippy riffing done very well....crash into the 'ATOM BAWMMMMM!!!!!', build slowly, release, build slowly, scream....oh yeah, baby. A pretty little piano figure insinuates itself like that freshman girl you liked when you were a senior. You knew she was a little young and, anyway, you had a girlfriend, but you sure like the way that thing tinkled on your 'Sunday Afternoon' and made you feel like you were a bad, bad boy. Or not. Whatever. Pink Floyd or not Pink Floyd, the song about Evel Kinevel sounds like Pink Floyd again, but this time it's Syd Barrett's group of foppy cracked actors rather than the cool, calm, and egotistical later band. The Flaming Lips try everything besides laying down a groove and playing riffs over it, and it may strike you as prog or it may strike you as porn, but whatever happens, it'll strike you in some way, shape or form. These guys were into drugs, and not into the drugs as in 'let's get fucked up and get some chicks' or 'lets feel like we are the Right Hand Man of God', but in a way that lets you open up brand new wings in the Institutional Facility of your Psyche and Let The Patients Run Things For Awhile. Song titles like 'Ceiling's Bending' and waterslides down Coyne's neural pathways like the 'Ode To C.C.' duo prove everything beyond any shadow of doubt, take my word. Hell's got all the good bands, anyway. Right on, brother.
I'd say I like that weird stuff the
best, but I'd be a-lyin' like Alyssa Milano in a producer's office. I really like the more
normal songs, like the bad bastard opener 'Everything's Exploding', which is my
vote for best Lips song prior to Ambulance. And speaking of the devil,
this album is sort of a mini-Priest Driven Ambulance of it's own, except with less intentional noise mongering and,
you know, the songs aren't quite as good. But if you've heard 'Five Stop Mother
Superior Rain' and were strangely moved by basic chord structures and
meaningless lyrics sung in as an affecting way as possible, 'Can't Exist' is just
more oil for the wok, you see. Even if it reminds me of Phish when they try not to be so damned obnoxious.
And 'Thanks To You' may be the only attempt someone has ever made to remake Led
Zeppelin's 'Thank You', ever. And damn near blow the original clear over the
Capn's Final Word: The problem with doing drug-influenced music is not that your audience may not be able to understand what your trying to do, it's that you may find that you're not actually be able to do what you intend to because you've grown giant Snicker's bar instead of fingers.
Hrmnm. I used to seriously think this album was
mediocre, and since I only have it on vinyl (heh heh) I haven't been able to give it as many spins at all as
the other Laming Flips albums around it. Now, after getting off my duff (sheeeit, I work like 55 hours a week now and I have a
little baby and a wife who wants me to take her out shopping every two
days....my duff ain't getting much use, I'd say) and
making a cassette copy of my LP, I've finally been able to spend a few quality
hours with Telepathetic Surgery on my
morning walk to work (yeah, I walk to work now, just like I did in
Russia...pretty fitting for an environmental engineer, huh?), I'd say that the
album is like a 4-yard run play on 2nd and 8 - progress, to be sure, but
certainly not the play that gets the cheerleaders discussing the underwear kegger that evening. A
Erm, not much else to say, I guess. I nominate 'Hari Krishna Stomp Wagon (Fuck Led Zeppelin)' as best song title on the record (closely followed by 'Redneck School of Technology') but oddly one of the few songs that doesn't sound much like it was influenced by the Balloons. Not unless they were playing goofy punk-pop songs about pyromania with Yes-influenced bridges on that there Horses of the Homely, anyway. And I don't think they were, last time I checked. Gosh, not like these song titles have much to do at all with the content of the songs. I mean, the second side is like some sort of a UFO concept thingamabobby that starts off with someone (most likely Wayne) relating a story about 5 mysterious flying saucers viewed twice as a youngster, and then moving on to songs that use the magic 'alien' word a few times. I'd say the music, though, is just more of the same 3 or 4 flavors we've heard on the first half, which is about 6 or 7 less than on the less album, but still pretty satisfying if you don't mind decent twiggy riff rockers played by a band that's pretty clearly having a great time.
Capn's Final Word: They get the editing and lose the spark, and edge close to generic grunge territory. But they're still damn solid, and all they really need is someone actually weirder than themselves to help out....
In A Priest Driven Ambulance
- Restless 1990
Try as they might, the Lips just couldn't get
it over the edge as a trio. There was just too much for Wayne Coyne to do, not
enough strings to ring and not enough fingers to twiddle to get the noise that
was in his mind out into the universe and (hopefully) down on tape. That was,
you see, until he met up with kindred spirit Michael Donohue, a man who was
struggling with his very own, similarly plaster-shattering rock band Mercury
Rev. Well, ol Wayne convinced Johnny Guitar first to
come be his tech, then to play second noisy guitar in the Lips, thus ringing in
the First True Era of Flaming Lips Godhead. Imagine carnival music on a
spaceship orbiting the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith, wherein the crew
is battling a rebellious Hal with the added ammunition of a fully stocked stash
of hallucinogens and candy bars. But, you know,
My wife: 'It's not Madonna'. How true.
But this album isn't really about
Jesus and God and stuff as much as it is about making quake-inducing noise in
all shapes and forms. They pitch-shift their voices,
My wife: 'It's not edible'. Well.....
The quieter songs are the real
signposts of artistic growth. Taking 'A Million Billionth' to the nth degree
are strangely moving pieces like 'Raining Babies', 'There You Are', and, most
of all, on 'Five Stop Mother Superior Rain'...yeah, he kinda
went back on not singing about rain, trains, and brains, but it's his present
to the world and he wants you to have it. The slide guitar work on 'Five Stop'
is enough to win a Grammy if the world were right, but
My wife: 'Why don't you write that I'm sitting in your lap in only my underwear, keeping you from writing?' And you wonder why I only update every few days....
Ah, there's some covers of the stripe Coyne likes (cheesy yet heartfelt...here it's 'What A Wonderful World', not rendered in it's best-ever version), and I'm not at all in love with 'Stand In Line', what seems to be an endless, underdeveloped attempt to do something completely different (just seems out of place, really), and the other outtake bonus songs aren't too hot, but if you cram a five-pack of superior rockers and three slower ones of the same quality, it's just got to be a solid A, doncha think? Right on, brother.
Capn's Final Word: Nothing else sounds quite like this in the Lips catalogue, and they never synthesized Loveless and Houses Of The Holy better anywhere else. An achievement.
Album Name: Unconciously Screaming E.P Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: My favoorite track ont his 4 song e.p is "Lucifer Rising" which is an effects ladden guitar noise freak out based on a repative riff. I would like anyone who knows what the LYRICS to this are to please send them to me. okay, pretty please.
Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Haven't heard this, or really all that much Lips, but just wanted to say I'm pretty sure the other guitarist's name is actually Jonathan Donahue, not Michael.
The Day Andy Gibb Died - Bootleg 199?
Buttleg bootleg, 37 minutes of which is from
The rarities stuff is a helluva hot dog easier to listen to (except for 'Thank You'/'
Capn's Final Word: Why I don't usually buy bootlegs. I didn't even have all the studio albums when I plunked down all the cash I paid for this. Yeah, I'm a tard.
Hit To Death In The Future
Head - Warner Bros. 1992
Grabbing melody by the ears and wrangling it all around the studio like a red-headed
stepladder, Hit To Death is the album where the Lips find themselves at
the crossroads between making aggressively beautiful noise and making
provocatively beautiful noise. I see it as a modern-day Magical Mystery Tour,
not willing to take itself too seriously ('Halloween On The Barbary Coast' fer chrissakes) as it forges
these lovely trails of smoke through the skylines of our minds. Jonathan
Donohue is gone to play with beach balls at Mercury Rev concerts, but his
lessons are not lost...they're just replicated and overdubbed. Instead of one
End the album before the last track, though. Trust me on that. If you forget and leave the album on while you step out, you might come back to find yourself evicted and your housepets donated to shelters. Please just stop the CD early.
Capn's Final Word: Still delightfully noisy, but in a friendly
Transmissions From The
Satellite Heart - Warner Bros. 1993
Absolutely poptones. Probably the best rock album of 1993, though of course I haven't heard them all, but as I sit here in my enormous closet looking at all of my thousands of CD's and CD-Roms and LPs and cassettes and whatnot, I've most likely heard all of them at one time or another. I mean, Sponge can't hold a Candlebox to these guys, and for at least 5 minutes, we actually had the Flaming Lips on MTV, and not even on 120 minutes, either...that'd be cheating. The song that did the trick? Oh, only the most Dr. Demento-worthy track they ever did, a pure novelty about dying your hair with fruit juice that, as great bands often are, represents the Brand Identity of these guys to most people (or most people alive in 1994, anyway). How it beat out 'Turn It On' or 'Pilot Can At The Queer Of God' or, shit, any of these other songs on here is a testament to how goofy the Lips or radio programmers or MTV or the record-buying public or my Uncle Jim the NRA man or someone is.....Someone is to blame! For lots of idiot kids (though not the same number or idiot kids who bought The Verve Pipe) bought this record, and it apparently stuck to very few of them. But then let's remember that in 1993-4, the name of the game was grunge, and this album predates such Luddism with a really crystalline blend of Beatles, shoegazer rock, and nursery rhyme. And even more so than Hit to Death, the melodies here are vicously strong. Strong enough to make a line like 'And now...she's got helicopters....yes she has....' sound, well, if not profound, then at least as kind and pleasant as a morning shower with the naked, charming woman of your choice.
And why this album get the nod is just the density of ideas on display....these guys have abandoned the riff for a more composition-driven songwriting style based on passages and shifts, but (again, thanks be to Allah) they still remember that they're guitar players first. And while Transmissions is the first moment when lovers of the last few albums will begin to see connections with the current band, this is still enough of a rock band to encourage raucous headbanging as well as pensive consideration of what a pregnant head might look like. We've got Wayne and new members Ronald Jones and Steven Drozd taking some chances even beyond the whole abandonment of noise for noise sake...how do you think the hardcore noisecore fans would take to the acoustic country-folk 'Plastic Jesus'. Even the most noisy songs on the album leave room to breathe, and therefore make a much stronger impression than they would have just a few years before. I believe 'Superhumans' wouldn't have meant anything if it had been on, say, Oh My Gawd!, but here it's almost like a declaration of dependence for the newfangled Lips. Or you can just enjoy a perfect T-Rex of a good time like 'Be My Head' or the early 80's lovefest of 'When Yer Twenty-Two', which have no ulterior motives. This album is like listening to your favorite radio station play all of your favorite bands at the same time...sorta disjointed, but you still get to hear 30 years of great music all at once. The Lips have tried their hardest to replicate that here. Each song gets under the skin like a tattoo needle and makes you feel all tangerine all day long. What else could you want? A good day album from a band that's discovered their sunrise.
Capn's Final Word: Yeah, they still play 'Jelly' live...they gave everyone big bags of confetti at the show I went to, and such a simple idea was brilliant....you realise their skewed genius here on Transmissions.
Clouds Taste Metallic - Warner Bros. 1996
Sort of a sequel to Transmissions, but
without the recognizable hit.
Hey, I've got a story for you that was related to me
by by good ol' college
friend Terry who used to actually hang out with the Lips from time to time.
Here he was, eating some expensive dinner (on the Warner Brothers tab) with
Michael and Wayne, who were at that time just trying to come up with the idea
of the parking lot experiments, picking up the pieces after Ronald left the
band. Well, the story goes like this, and it's one of my favorites: While
shooting their appearance on that fateful episode of
So, but, you know, back to Clouds.
This album is like a more serious, slightly more restrained version of it's predecessor. 'Why is it, if God hears all of my
questions, that there aren't any answers?', but you see, by this time we're
already inoculated against what seem to be Coyne's banalities because he seems
so dang childlike when asking them, like he really, seriously spends days on end
wondering about these things, not like he's just trying to make a line rhyme or
sound profound. He's a genuine four year old trapped in an aging rock star's
body, someone who could dream up the idea of dozens of car stereos playing the
same music at top volume, like some sort of a Lee Iacocca wet dream. Because
This is the album of the philosophical great-great-grandchild of 'Five Stop Mother Superior Rain' and 'One Million Billionth...', a slow, heavy aire piece that sounds like the merry-go-round broke down and all the horses are eating the cotton candy. 'They Punctured My Yolk', 'The Abandoned Hospital Ship', 'Placebo Headwound', 'Christmas At The Zoo', and 'Evil Will Prevail' could alternately be described as stately and reserved or downright draggy, depending on your state of mind. Right now, I'm a tired little puppy, and while I'm thankful that the melodies are always present and accounted for and never try to get too obscure on me, I wish we might have just a little more heft on the gas pedal from time to time. For such an artistic record as this one to never have anything approaching a bad song (the only thing I feel is sub par is 'Bad Days', a refugee from Hit To Death which was released on the Batman Forever soundtrack that year. And even it has the couplet 'You hate your boss at your job, you wish you could blow his head off...show no mercy', which, as sung by Wayne Coyne, is equal to hearing a nun use the word 'cunt' in casual conversation.) is damned remarkable, and I really feel this is a beginning of the major transition of this band to be able to function over the long haul. They'd left pure noise, and next they had to have the guts to set down their guitars (more or less) altogether....especially after Ronald left to pursue....well, whatever it is he was pursuing. But I still feel giving this album a higher grade would overrate my pure enjoyment of it. I appreciate it, even love it in fact, but my pleasure receptors are twanged ever so less often by this than Transmissions (or, heck, Ambulance). This is going to become more and more usual with the most recent releases - artistic growth takes over for pure, exhilarating silliness, and oddity replaces the summertime run through the sprinklers that was the Lips in the early 90's.
Capn's Final Word: The end of an era, but probably the culmination of all things Lippy in one place. I never thought the result would be so mid-tempo. What we need is some disco, some 8 Hz tones, and a wacky story about a dog's favorite chew toys.
Zaireeka - Warner Bros. 1997
For concept and originality, this gets an automatic A+, you know, with the four CD's to be played simultaneously on four different machines to get a true 'interactive' sound experience and all, but for pure listening and utility, this is like a C or something. I once was able to put together three at the same time (get yer damn mind out of the gutter...there's children around, you know) but only once, and while the experience was rightfully mind-blowing (I mean real 360 degree sound...understand?), it's such a pain in the ass to locate and collect all those CD players in the same place I'll probably not think of doing it again for some time. I have enough trouble finding time to listen through one CD, what with all this workin' and fatherin' I've got to do all the time, I'm not going to spend a probable 40 minutes just to set up all this stuff. The secret is that you really can listen to just one at a time if you've taken enough chemical assistance. You'll be jamming along to a pretty flagellant display of drumming, or maybe some gorgeous piano, or just some odd noise, but it does make a sort of sense. Me? I've got a mix of all 4 CD's I downloaded off of the ol' Napster some years ago, so I can be completely boring and predictable and just listen to all of it at the same time just like it was a normal record. And the thing is, a lot of this album depends on the concept for it's very existence, for without it, things like 'March Of The Rotten Vegetables' are just so much nausea-inducing tones (I mean that literally....this song comes with a warning about its extremely low-frequency content. Try to get THAT on a Nelly CD!) But all those personal bitches aside, this really is some genius concept...providing you're willing to participate in the creative process, you could seriously never listen to the same album twice...that's pretty cool in this age of lookalike techno-influenced hip-hop-flirting slick-ass product, some of which is actually now being released by the Lips themselves.
was the result of another particularly difficult time for the Lips, similar
to the period just before Hear It Is when
Anyway, the songs on the album are
pretty much nothing like anything you've heard from the Lips before, other than
their (by now) trademark melodies. This is now Lips as New Age music. There is
nary a guitar to be heard on the album, but there are banana-boats of
orchestras, kettle drums, and choruses of screaming. Some of the songs are
further up the Christmas tree than are others, but with an opening like 'Okay,
I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand' (reading the audience-members'
minds, I see) followed by 'Riding To Work In The Year 2025 (You're Invisible
Now)' is likely to throw anyone off like a half-dollar on a rail. I wouldn't
even know what adjectives to use for either of these songs, other than possibly
'confusing' and 'haunting'. Atmosphere is everything, I guess. The next song,
about a plane crash, is suitable horrifying as well...all disembodied pianos
and oboes. After this, our feet touch ground lightly for a short while, and
'The Machine In India' is almost like that Psychedelic Furs song about
I guess what I'm failing to say here with all these countless paragraphs (do all Flaming Lips albums require so much writing? Jesus! I thought this would be an easy page! After Genesis it is, I guess.) is that Zaireeka should not be entered into lightly. It's not a first purchase, and probably should even be the last. It's expensive (now...I got mine for like 18 bucks in 1997), rare, and requires lots of care to even be enjoyed as intended. And what I'm saying is the process is better than the actual result....getting there is all the fun. If there were an album that requires more input from the listener, both mechanically and expectation-wise, I've yet to come across it. And to get right back to where I started, I'll say again that this is truly a singularity in the music universe. A butterfly in a sea of moths.
Capn's Final Word: If Clouds showed the depth of their songwriting, this shows the depth of their creativity, daring, and originality. But not their songwriting.
Pauly Tamale Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I had my doubts, but once you get it all set up, this gimmick works pretty well. I've had the pleasure of experiencing four cd players at once on two separate occassions, once at a "ZAIREEKA PARTY" and once in art class. It's definitely fun to listen to with your friends
bob Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: great site, man. i really enjoyed reading your lips reviews. however, this album is primarily meant to be listened to with all four CDs playing out of different CD players. If you only listen to one, three, or even a mixdown of all four, you will not get the full experience. with all due respect, i don't think you can rate this album acurrately until you've listened to it the right way. obviously you can rate the musical composition from the mixdown, but do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing!
The Soft Bulletin - Warner Bros. 1999
Everyone always seems to write a ton about this record, but I don't feel like doing it. It's great, yeah, but I don't feel like I need to go over every song ad rectumum. It's really quite different than their previous records, but anyone who was following along rather than just sleeping in the back of class saw this 'adult' crap coming as far back as Clouds Taste Metallic. No, not crap. But very, very slow, and very very mature. Sheeit, these guys are like nearly 50 or something. And if you're not a fan of listening to Wayne Coyne's voice, pass on The Soft Bulletin, because he's all over this album like a Miami Dolphin on your mom.
I understand where all this dour seriousness came from, what with two bandmembers nearly dying, and the father of the songwriter
actually passing on, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Just as the
mainstream press finally caught on to the Lips as something other than yet
another 'alternative' group to patronize and hand out 3/5 star grades while
giving 4 1/2's out to whatever shithole pop crap
comes out of under whatever rock they spawn under (Semisonic,
anyone? Didn't Third Eye Blind get, like, a 5/5 or something?), the Lips
decided they were actually better fit for writing twisted Disney cartoon theme
songs than rock music. And while their new thing, this kitchen-sinkhole smush of orchestral arrangements, big drumbeats (and plenty
of small drum machines, too), no guitars, and lots and lots of Wayne passing on
his thoughts on himself and about 'people', meaning, you know, humans other
than himself. His 'keeper' lines are a lot less loopy than in the past, like 'I
raised my hands and I said 'yeah'....I stood up and I said 'hey, yeah''. Right. Up with people, Wayne. 'The Spiderbite Song' chronicles drummer Steve Drozd's battle with spider poisoning, which nearly claimed
one of his limbs for
Anyway, themes are serious and
heavy, but we get a smile and a pat on the back and feel like, shit, why not
keep being good people and not get hung up on it all? 'Superman' failed to be
the big hit, but it's the best produced and most accessible song the band has
done since, well, forever. It's their 'Everybody Hurts', if you dig. There's
still some scattered weirdness, but it's all sort of low-key and academic sort
of bizarre, not like it's gonna make your tongue seek
out the nearest light socket. Erm...I guess it all
was inevitable, this growing up business. I feel like this record gives up the
ghost a bit too much, and they wisely get a bit of the ol'
goof back on the next record to make up for it. But if you ever wonder what the
band sounds like when they're not feeling particularly 'wacky', here you
Capn's Final Word: Growing up is hard ta do...A very strong album, but you really need to be ready for lots of 'smiling through the tears', and music to match.
Yoshimi Battles The Pink
Warner Bros. 2002
You know, I'm just now familiarizing myself
with the Butthole Surfers (thank you, Kazaa!) early work, and I was just realising
how very lame their two mid-90's attempts at, well, whatever they were
attempting with Independent Worm Saloon and Electric Larryland. Getting on the radio, I guess. There's so
little of that ol' fashioned Surfer axe-murder (Gibby sounds like a very old man on those records)
and instrument torture that it's just so very simple to disregard those albums.
They grew up, found they weren't able to sustain their young man blues into
their mid-30s, and ended up making music that was well within the grasp of 10
gazillion other bands. See, but I'm not so sure this holds true with the
Flaming Lips. Similar philosophies and roots, from the same region of the
country, starting off at approximately the same time, same flirtation with
radio accessibility in the form of a fluke hit, but when the Lips made the jump
over the cliff of Good Taste and began changing their approach, they
successfully made music that sounded like them, not techno-distracted cardboard
cutouts of themselves like the Surfers. While continuing the process of
maturation that Bulletin announced, Yoshimi is actually better
constructed than that record, I think, and their return to semi-obscurantism is
a healthy sign they won't soon be turning into Tom Petty or anything like that.
The focal-point of the whole record is the title-character, a 60's-era Japanimation girl (you know, still like a little girl, and
not a pedophile-baiting 12 year old street whore like you'd find in that modern
Anime crap) who turns into a hero because she knows karate and won't let the
pink robots defeat her. The battle is played out in a sort of Tarkus II suite, all fight noises represented
by electronic instruments, although a much more dancable
version that features better use of analog synthesizers than anything Asinine,
Lick, or (Hair Growing Out Of My)Palm(because I haven't had a date in
y)e(a)r(s). Yup, the Moog is now the primary instrument of choice for the band,
though its hard to say what exactly got raided out of
the bandroom for this record. You've got so many
textures, timbres, and titllations harvey-wallbanging everywhere that I find it's just easier
to describe the sound of the record as 'synthesized'. Synthetic drums and
strings and other hard-to-master instruments are everywhere. Strange...this
record sounds like it could've been made by Tangerine Dream sometimes...and
other times it sounds like the Tom Tom Club. And
probably would appeal to fans of either one. What it may absolutely not appeal
to is fans of guitar rock, especially the sort of trod-upon heavy psych-rock
that used to be the Lips calling card. Ironic, I guess, but since I feel a
little more open-minded than your average Tom Tom
Club fan (whoever that person may be. Dwayne Horowitz of
Why, you so informedly ask? (Go ahead! Demand quality reviewing from your reviewer!) Well, even though the songs all sound about 20 bpms too slow, and all of this subdued melodicism could quite possibly pass through you like a ghost or a Taco Bell Gordita, but leaving less of a trace behind, it can also feel a lot more like an irresistible force than previous albums have been. Their vision is exceedingly clear on this record, and while I felt almost like parts of Soft Bulletin were kinda naggy, and was way too plain-spoken and insistent for my Lips tastes (I mean, not plain spoken like Love "Take Off Your Fucking Panties Already" Gun or anything...wait, let me explain...ah, shit...I guess I should have just left it alone), this album leaves some things left for the listener to discover. I also like how I don't feel directed by the music at hand....is that Hand Of God Mellotron to be rejoiced, or feared? I guess I don't know...it's all very, ambivalent. Fuck! I've been trying to find a good use for that word all day, and I finally came through for myself. Funny what little goals you can set for yourself when you can never, ever go out and do anything fun since you have a baby that HATES being in the car.
Songs...I guess I feel like some of these work magic on me, and some of them are just simply pleasurable to listen to. 'Are You A Hypnotist??' and 'In The Morning Of the Magicians', both of which could be considered 'multi-part suites' ('Magicians' almost even sounds like certain light prog rock...yaiiiii!), as well as the 'Yoshimi' section are just very successful music, very transportative. And though I feel like it's probably near-filler, 'It's Summertime' is the best pure-pop track on the album....very Beatleesque and very uplifting. So many bands are able to tear shit down all the time, but it's very hard to find a band that so unselfishly builds people up and not come across like Bono. Well, Wayne Coyne certainly doesn't come across to me like a fame-crazed egomaniac, but he does seem like someone who has a very gentle connection to the world, one where his still-childlike observations actually have a lot of merit ('Do you realise that everyone you know someday will die....you realise the sun doesn't go down, it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round...' in 'Do You Realise??')....
I had a thought the other day: If I couldn't have a member of my family or a close friend do it, you know, if I had to have a stranger tell me I was terminally ill and was going to die very soon, I'd want it to be Wayne Coyne. Isn't that horribly cheesy of me? But you know, I'd really like to try to get a little of his life-affirming positivity. 'All we ever had is now...' is fucking right.
Capn's Final Word: I'm going to go kiss my baby and my wife, then come back and listen to this album again. You probably should do something along the same lines.
Jake firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I don't own this album yet(just downloaded a bunch of tracks from it), but it seems pretty groovy. It broke my little heart to see a picture in SPIN magazine of Wayne Coyne perfoming onstage with a bunny-suited Justin Timberlake, though. *sniffs*
email@example.com Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: While you said that this album was about a mid-60's Japanimation girl, you're really wrong. It was written as a tribute for their friend Yoshimi P-Wee, who died in 1999. Just thought you might like to know.
(Capn's Response: Is that presumably Miss Wee on the cover, then?)
Finally The Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid - Restless 2002
The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg - Restless 2002
I don't own these very worthwhile compilations from the pre-Warner Brothers Lips, but I feel like it's my civic duty to inform you that you can get all 4 of their first records, even including their original Flaming Lips EP (which I've never even heard!!! I saw an original pressing for sale in Norman, OK once for, like, $35 or something though!!!), which was recorded while they looked like that picture on the cover of Finally. A cross between Oklahoma redneck and the Cure, huh? Well, if you say so. Finally also has Hear It Is through Telepathic Surgery. Shot A Hole is Priest Driven Ambulance and an whole bunch of outtakes I probably have half of, but both of these give me an obscene excuse to rebuy most of a Flaming Lips collection. C'mon, even if all the bonus tracks are shit (not likely, but let's say for conservatism's sake), you're still getting 4 pretty good albums for $50, and at your local Best Buy, too. Try to find Hear It Is at Best Buy....they'll laugh you out of the store and then overcharge you for installation anyway.