The Flaming Lips are one of the great psychedelic rock bands of our time (not that it’s a crowded field.) Their music roves all over all of the wavelengths and their heads are filled with soupy ideas. They want you to use your cosmic energy to liberate yourself from whatever is binding you. Free your mind! Many people consider them a drug band, for obvious reasons, but really, you don’t need any chemical edge to enjoy the trip they offer. It may even feel a little redundant. This is music that trips you out and expands your mind all on its own power. So yeah, allow that cosmic pulse to take you out of your narrow little life and feel the greater power, or whatever. I think there’s some crude metaphor for self-liberation in Wayne Coyne’s video, but it may throw you off that it just happens to be a lot of people’s erotic fantasy as well. Minus the monkey, of course.
The Flaming Lips made the best album of 2002, and one of the greatest of the decade. That’s old news to everyone, I know. We’ve all listened to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots from discovery to saturation and onwards into nostalgia. Enough years have passed, though, that we can comfortably look back at the 2000’s as a chunk of historical time and make a judgement about it as a decade. We can see now, in hindsight, what stands or falls as a matter of historical import. What has already been roundly forgotten and what’s been accepted into canon. We can grind our teeth and admit that Paris Hilton really was the iconic blonde of the decade, like she claimed all along; and the disposable trash culture Andy Warhol semi-ironically predicted has become the status quo, spilling out of the entertainment realm and all the way up into presidential politics. In fact, it’s hard to tell what’s trash and what’s culture anymore. Yeah, the world has changed since 2002, and musing about robot feelings has only become more relevant. We still don’t have the science fiction rock opera we deserve, but this may be close enough.
Isn’t it great when your head is pregnant with ideas just waiting to burst out and life is pregnant with possibility? It’s a great metaphor for creative people. You’re in a constant state of incubating and bringing forth things that didn’t exist before. You could even get all high and mighty about it and claim that creative types exist on a higher plane than those destined to just be audience. My creative output makes me a better person than you! Ok, maybe I secretly really believe that, but only because my capacity to do normal people things is so abysmal. Anyhow, what I mean is I’m really loving the metaphor. It’s a transmission from the satellite heart, don’t you know. And if this record had reached me in 1993, the nineties would have shaped up to be a better decade.
There’s nothing quite as mournful in the urban soundscape as a passing ambulance siren. It is eerie and it is ominous. It carries the disturbing knowledge that someone, someone not so far away, is living out the worst moment of their life. Everyone has a worst moment, be it an accident or a brush with the law, a moment when their nightmares snap into reality. And it is the ambulance, and the squad car, with their lights and sirens, that rudely alert the world to people’s inherently private sufferings. When you see those flashing lights coming you know that someone’s life has been yanked from its moorings, that their reality will never be the same, that they’re experiencing a turning point they never expected and may never recover from. You hold your breath until it disappears, and if you’re a halfway decent person, say whatever passes for a prayer in your world. And amid all this, maybe give a nod of tribute to the driver and his team, the ones who spend their own lives witnessing and trying to alleviate the worst moments of suffering.
That’s typically trippy. I kind of feel like the Flaming Lips have gotten boring lately. On one hand, they’ve done a lot of gimmicky shit with their packaging, like the gummy skull and then the actual human skull. It’s creative, and I’m sure hardcore collectors appreciate it, but it doesn’t do much for the common fan who just wants to hear some new music. On the other hand, the last few times I did hear their new music I wasn’t altogether impressed. It wasn’t horrible by any means, just too ambient and forgettable. It’s like they’re in a comfortable groove, and everybody’s content and there’s no real reason to get up and change things. I suppose that’s a perfectly normal development for a band who’ve done their time in the indie trenches. I’ll still continue to prefer their crazier early stuff, but I can’t begrudge them a little complacency now they’re successful.
Psychedelic music not ded! Just slightly less world-dominating. It’s the Flaming Lips, your morning-after music. Or whatever time music. Guys, I’m glad I found you. You’re one of the best things I get to take home from a bad time in my life. So maybe I wasn’t as impressed by the last couple of albums as I could’ve been, but maybe I’m just less impressionable at the moment. Maybe I have all the psychedelic music I need for right now. Maybe Yoshimi is everything anyone could ever need and more. Some peaks lead to higher peaks and some peaks are final, with no direction to go but slightly down. Creativity isn’t a straight line, it’s a jagged, zig-zagging, tangled path.
Subtitled A Hallucination of the Christmas Skeleton Pleading With a Suicide Bomber. Which makes all kinds of sense. This is about as politically topical as the Lips can bring themselves to be. Not for them to knock other people; it’s Wayne Coyne’s way to gently remind the radical that he’s making a mistake. Well, they didn’t title their documentary Fearless Freaks for nothing. They’ve gotten downright dippy with age. Not so long ago they went on tour playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cover-to-cover. Now they’ve gotten into innovative packaging. Their last offer came encased in a gummi-skull, to be eaten through, presumably. Next up, they’re planning to release their new song tastefully presented inside a genuine human skull. (Less tasty but more permanent.) Just one song? Oh yeah, it’s 24 hours long. Cheers to them for finding a way around the whole downloading issue. When the package is half the main attraction, torrent and files are woefully inadequate.