Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Flaming Lips (2002)

As with many people, my introduction to The Flaming Lips was their 1993 alternative rock radio hit, "She Don't Use Jelly". I considered the song a bit of a novelty, and it was, but it was also pretty good. After a while, though, I got sick of it, and it certainly didn't give me any reason to consider taking them seriously.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve of 1999. As has become a bit of a tradition in recent years, and for all I know this may have been the year it started, Scott, Anders and I meet up at Scott's sister Julie's house. Yes, she's the sister referred to way back in the Styx post. That evening, when Anders remarked at how good the new Flaming Lips' album The Soft Bulletin was, it was difficult to believe he was talking about the same band who sang about spreading vaseline on toast.

Anders' opinion has always held a lot of weight with me, but I ignored this recommendation. That is, until three years later, when I heard some good press about Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. After listening to a few samples on (remember those days?), I bought the album and was hooked instantly from the opening moments of "Fight Song", an anthem of perserverance if there ever was one.

Yoshimi would go on to earn my album of the year honors. 2002 was also the year that I officially embarked on my new career and ended a 2 1/2 year relationship that went on at least a year and a half too long. Actually, it turned out to be one of those that wasn't over even when it was over, but I won't get into that.

Around Christmas of that year, having already completed my top ten, so I no longer had to devote all of my time to listening to music from the current year, I picked up a copy of The Soft Bulletin. Three years after Anders' initial recommendation, I finally realized what a masterpiece it is. For a while I thought it was better than Yoshimi, and most people agree it is, but now I'm not so sure. Soft Bulletin is more consistent, but Yoshimi is more varied and, therefore, more interesting. I highly recommend that you spend the requisite three months obsessing over both of these albums to decide for yourself.

Last year's At War With the Mystics made my top ten, but I still think it falls a little short of the brilliance of its predecessors. Nevertheless, their tour to support said album was fantastic, and if you've yet to share in the Flaming Lips live experience, what are you waiting for? I can honestly say this is the only show I've ever been to where I felt a bond with every stranger I came into contact with. And, given my fondness for well chosen live covers, the "War Pigs" encore was a joyful experience, especially with images of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld flashing on the screen behind the stage. Wayne Coyne is no Ozzy, but the band pulled it off admirably.

Venturing into the back catalog, I still prefer 1995's Clouds Taste Metallic to Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, the album that gave birth to their brief flirtation with commercial success. I'm not a huge fan of the older material, and I still haven't had that Zaireeka listening party that I've been talking about for years. In fact, that's one CD I own that I've never listened to, and I've refused to listen to the blended versions of this adventurous set of four discs intended to be played simultaneously on different CD players. Therefore, I still haven't heard it, not even a second of it.

The Flaming Lips and the remaining three bands on this list represent the new wave, so to speak, of music I'm into...the post alt-country period, if you will. The Lips are easily the most established band of the four. Still, I expect and look forward to future Flaming Lips material, while I'm also afforded the perfect opportunity for further exploration of the past work (i.e. Zaireeka) of one of my newer favorite bands.

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