The always interesting, ever-experimental Lips decided to release (ala Zaireeka) a 12-part song that is meant to be heard by playing parts 1 through 12 simultaneously. It’s only available through youtube. Here is all 12 parts mixed down together. I know it’s cheating… but it will give you a taste of the experience anyhow.
A recent EP collaboration by The Flaming Lips with Texas’ Neon Indian, this review comes from Marc Masters, April 6, 2011 from the Pitchfork Media website…
Outside of geographic proximity (Norman, Okla., and Denton, Texas, are only 150 miles apart), psychedelia is the only obvious link between the Flaming Lips and Alan Palomo’s project Neon Indian. The Lips often veer to the darker side of psych, especially recently (see their 2009 dread-filled opus Embryonic), while Palomo deals in a day-glo take on 1980′s pop. So when Wayne Coyne revealed that they were banging out a fast collaboration — as he put it, “that shit should be ready to go pretty quickly” — the first question that came to mind was whether the result would lean more toward sun or shadows.
That’s settled immediately by the opener on this four-track, 22-minute EP, the ominously titled “Is David Bowie Dying?” It’s not completely clear what the lyrics have to do with Bowie’s potential demise, but the music feels like an elegy, a kind of spaced-out funeral march. With its slow, crunchy beat, cutting sonic debris, and Coyne’s weary intonations, it would fit well among Embryonic‘s doomy mantras. “Take your legs and run/ To the death rays of Read the rest of this entry »
The Flaming Lips, along with Stardeath & White Dwarfs, Henry Rollins (yes, you read that correctly) and Peaches made the brave decision to cover one of the most iconic albums in history. And they pull it off in amazing fashion. You can find it on iTunes.
This review was written by Mike Allen for the Sputnik Music website, Dec. 27, 2009…
When the Flaming Lips announced that they would cover Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, I felt that the Flaming Lips had put themselves in a lose-lose situation. If their version was too similar to the original, we would be hearing criticism that the Flaming Lips did not approach the cover creatively enough. On the contrary, giving Dark Side of the Moon an entirely different sound would result in criticism such as, “they ruined it.” This predicament is especially present in covering Dark Side of the Moon, for the original is plain and simple one of the greatest albums of all-time. Despite releasing the breakthrough record Meddle in 1971, Pink Floyd made a lasting and powerful impression on the world with Dark Side of the Moon; an album that we may not see the likes of ever again. This record may have been the most significant and greatest of a generation, and it’s no wonder that the release is still being glorified and revered in the present day. So, it can be said that the Lips had a bit of a job to do and a decision to make.
The Flaming Lips have proved to be one of the most intriguing and innovative bands of the past two decades, ranging from a soothing psychedelic pop to a creative, and quite frankly strange yet brilliant psychedelic mess. In terms of originality, the Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd are very similar; each delivering enough ground-breaking material to separate themselves from their peers. This is, precisely what makes this cover attempt so fascinating. The question facing the Lips now would be, what sound should be adopted for Dark Side of the Moon? A sound not unlike the Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin would definitely be a viable option, for its dreamy and uplifting feel could prove to be perfect for Dark Side of the Moon. On the other hand, the band could opt to deliver a performance not unlike this year’s Embryonic. An Embryonic- type sound would make for a raw and noisy cover that would be interesting in its own way.
With those options in place, the listener is able to discover exactly what the Lips were going for from the very beginning. Following the heartbeat and scream in the opening seconds of the record, just when you are expecting the relaxing entrance of “Breathe,” a loud and purely psychedelic start is what is implemented. The Flaming Lips version of Dark Side of the Moon is indeed a very intriguing experience, which wavers greatly from the original. This type of style, although seemingly out of place for this particular record, is perfectly suited for tracks like “On the Run.” Just like the Pink Floyd development, the Flaming Lips account of “On the Run” is noisy, bizarre, and creative. The Lips seemed to go about the rest of the record in similar fashion, for instrumental “Any Colour You Like” is one of the highlights. “Any Colour You Like” comes off as a thunderous adaptation of the original that lacks neither the instrumental genius nor the power of the Floyd version. One of the most conflicting areas of the record is that of the “Time” and “The Great Gig in the Sky” tandem. The Lips flex their muscles with “Time,” providing a distorted and tumultuous introduction, and even offering comic relief by making coughing sounds. On top of this, the Lips are able to retain the themes of the album, delivering the same raw edged sound as their account of “Breathe” for “Breathe (Reprise).” Unlike its descendant however, “Time” is quite a successful task. The beauty and masterful vocal performance of “The Great Gig in the Sky” is not replicated in any form here, and is actually quite a strain on the ears. The Lips opted for a distorted vocal effect here, which is conveyed as mindless and irritating screaming.
The most soothing track on the record is that of “Us and Them,” which is in essence a beautiful account to say the least. Although not growing to something greater like the original, the song in this case continues on its aerial ambience for the track’s entirety. Many will argue that the Lips version of “Us and Them” lacks power, but demonstrates to be powerful in that the sound of the song comes out of nowhere on the record. As one of the most significant tracks on Dark Side of the Moon the Flaming Lips replicated “Us and Them” with great virtuosity, which is true for the close of the record as well. “Brain Damage” and especially “Eclipse” are not tampered with a great deal, and although sounding a bit different than the originals, are very effective. “Eclipse” serves as a brilliant close for the Lips cover of the album, retaining the raw edge of the rest of the record and delivering a powerful climax.
In retrospect of hearing the record, the impact does not live up to the influence of Pink Floyd’s version, but to expect that would be ridiculous. It may have proved to be beneficial for the Flaming Lips to mix the styles of Embyonic and The Soft Bulletin for this cover, appropriately assigning different sounds to the necessary tracks. The Lips however, had attempted an extremely complicated task, that was overall a successful endeavor.
The tenth anniversary of this amazing album — we take another look back, with this review by Tod Nelson from Amazon.com, 1999…
The Flaming Lips’ particular and peculiar genius comes to full fruition on the stupendous The Soft Bulletin. Anyone who had the gumption to actually listen to Zaireeka, a song cycle that could only be heard by playing four CDs at the exact same time on different stereos, knows that head Lip Wayne Coyne and his Oklahoma City brethren had it in them. That album, along with the Lips’ Parking Lot Experiments, offered proof that Coyne wasn’t playing by the same rules as everyone else. He was growing up and away from the splenetic psychedelic freak-outs of earlier albums and emerging as a first-rate composer – perhaps the first alt-rock star to earn such status.
The Soft Bulletin is absolutely colossal, a testament to their position as the vanguard of a movement that includes Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, and Olivia Tremor Control’s Black Foliage. As with those albums, Bulletin shares a love of cosmic, vaguely psychedelic pop and a closet full of pet sounds. But the Flaming Lips only uses these as a launch pad for rocketing into ethereal sonic space. Although Bulletin steps back from Zaireeka‘s over-the-top indulgence, it manages to be symphonic, bombastic, outrageous, and damned catchy – while still oozing the band’s unique weirdness. The sound is massive and complex; gongs, harps, grand piano, bells, pipe organ, strings, oboes, choral harmonies, and, strangely, very, very little guitar squall all merge into one wall – no, wall of sound doesn’t do it justice. It’s a cliff of sound, propelled by drummer Steven Drozd’s tremendous pounding. On top of it all, Coyne’s sweet but ravaged voice yields tender lyrics that tag a catalog of Lips stalwarts, such as insects, spirituality, and superheroes. One imagines Coyne in front of a full orchestra, urging them to keep up as he sings, “Ooh, those bugs / buzzing ’round…” on “Buggin.” But the Lips orchestrated the entire album in their studio, sometimes manipulating more than 200 separate tracks to achieve Bulletin‘s vast symphonic excess. Each song is a rare gem. “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” sounds like a collusion of Bach and Tricky. “The Spark That Bled” infuses a fey, Belle and Sebastian-esque ditty with Led Zeppelin-like funky swagger. “The Spiderbite Song” is a shotgun wedding between a tender piano ballad and the industrial noise of things falling apart. “The Gash” is just too singular to adequately describe.
It’ll be interesting to hear what the Lips do next. If The Soft Bulletin is any indication at all, they can do anything they please. And we can’t possibly imagine what it will sound like.
What every household should have on their Christmas tree…
Another recent review of The Lips’ new psych opus….this time from Nick Annan, on the Clash Music website (Sept. 25, 2009)…
More widely of late known as that band with the crazy stage show, inflatable globe, Teletubbies and all, The Flaming Lips have been busy in the lab and have returned with an altogether more intriguing studio album, Embryonic.
Of course, for those coming late to the party, experimental is what The Flaming Lips do – 1997’s Zaireeka album came on four discs to be played on four stereo systems simultaneously, nevermind the eight years in the making Christmas on Mars film. So now, Wayne Coyne and his outlandish Flaming Lips have unveiled their first double album, the afore-mentioned Embryonic.
Traditionally the format where serious rock bands spread their wings – see The Beatles’ White Album or Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde – head Lip Wayne Coyne states that they sometimes “would have made a better single album if only the artist would have focused themselves, edited themselves, and got down to work and trimmed the fat.” He even goes on to agree that Embryonic may indeed be guilty of just that adding, “Either way it’s too late… the damage has been done.”
Embryonic is all about the band’s more impulsive, spontaneous side, common sense be damned. Maybe their recent mainstream success – their songs have even appeared on television adverts in the US – has fueled a need to cut loose, and Embryonic is certainly a return to their leftfield roots. Recent fans may be sorely tested by the developments herein. Equally, any self respecting music fan will be more than prepared for the going-ons (think a post rock Bitches Brew).
All this talk of excess and experimentation might lead you to assume I’m setting you up for bad news of a self-indulgent mess of an album, and while there certainly are some non-essential tracks here, there is a wealth of killer material, however obtusely the Lips choose to deliver it.
Recording on equipment set up in drummer/multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd’s vacant house clearly gave the band time to play, with those sessions informing the mood of the album as a whole, a group of arty, very talented, friends jamming in someone’s front room.
“Convinced of the Hex” kicks things off in fine style, its “Tomorrow Never Knows” drums startling the listener to attention. Edited down from a ten-minute jam, it sets a suitable mood for things to come, a loped bass-heavy groove and electronic squalls. Already a highlight from the digital EP is “Silver Trembling Hands,” one of the more cohesive offerings here alongside “See the Leaves,” “Worm Mountains” and album closer “Watching the Planets.”
There is a surplus of material with excess minutes spent on song fragments and periods of noodling, “Powerless” being the chief culprit. Coyne’s words come back to haunt him in these, thankfully few, moments.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O appears as a guest “vocalist” on three tracks, “Gemini Syringes,” “Watching the Planets” and “I Can Be a Frog,” providing the requisite animal noises in accompaniment to the main lyrics’ roll call of furry friends. Notable as an example of the band’s sense of fun and childlike approach to creativity, the unique element to their ambitious, high concept, bizarrely titled material rescues and elevates the band from po-faced prog hell.
The gossamer ballads “If” and “The Impulse” are welcome havens from the weirdness, while AWOL – or at least neglected – is their knack for effortless pop nuggets as heard on tracks like the now classic “Do You Realize??” or “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1.” Clearly those kind of songs require more spit and polish than the Embryonic sessions manifesto allowed. A return to their earlier head music roots is definitely apparent, and not just in that cover art.
I’ve always seen The Flaming Lips as a band above criticism. Whatever they involve themselves in, you can’t fault their motives or the sheer joie de vivre with which they operate. Embryonic doesn’t change that opinion of them and further scores points for the head-strong manner with which they have assembled, driven and released this double album.
So, yeah, being facetious, it’d be better as a single album, maybe their best album yet, but that would miss the point of who The Flaming Lips are. A group of friends who’ve been a band for a little over twenty-five years. A quarter century years into their career, those by whom we measure longevity in rock, The Rolling Stones, released the career nadir Dirty Work album. Says it all really.
Always the outsiders, even as they headlined festivals and topped charts, The Flaming Lips have returned with a truly great piece of work, flawed though it may be. Fearless Freaks indeed.
The Flaming Lips outdo themselves on this esoteric but never impenetrable double-album magnum opus. It may not have the brilliant, concise songcraft of their last three albums, but in its sprawling adventurousness and total psychedelic mindfuck-meets-Bitches Brew sonic stew, the Lips prove that they are still the most imaginative and original band in rock & roll these days. Not bad for a bunch of guys who have been at it for over 25 years.
Ringmaster Wayne Coyne’s fearless experimentation puts most of today’s safe and bland rock bands to shame, which is why we need groups like this more now than ever. I don’t see anyone aiming this high, artistically, on a regular basis. Only Radiohead comes close in matching them for sheer creativity and inventiveness. And longtime sonic architect Dave Fridmann proves once again why he is one of the top producers in the world, and why this could be one of the most artistically successful producer-artist duos since George Martin and The Beatles.
The Lips mostly eschew the lush, skewed pop of more recent albums like The Soft Bulletin and At War with the Mystics for a much darker space-rock vibe in songs like “Scorpio Swords” and “See the Leaves.” Though the album is more experimental and challenging, than they have been in awhile, not to mention downright loopy in places (as on the whimsical “I Can Be a Frog,” complete with animal imitations), they never completely leave the art of songwriting behind. But they are clearly not in the mood for delivering easy singalong choruses this time around. They indulge in voodoo mystical grooves and raw, electronic jams that show a clear Krautrock, as well as Miles Davis fusion-era influence on songs like “Aquarius Sabotage” and “Convinced of the Hex.”
It all adds up to one long, amazing work of art. Spacy, maddening, brilliant, loopy, sinister, meandering, breathtaking – these are some of the words you can use to describe this. But one word really suffices: mindblowing. The Lips have done it again. And as long as they continue to put out albums with this much creativity, let’s hope these fearless freaks keep blowing our minds for another 25 years.
Recent review by Paul Lester for the BBC Music website (Sept. 21, 2009) of the new Flaming Lips “double album” extravaganza (coming out this Tuesday).
I just got finished listening to it online, and off a first listen, it sounds like a brilliant, deeply psychedelic, esoteric work of art. The Lips have done it again. Probably the most consistently mind-blowing band over the past dozen years or more. If only more bands had their sense of adventure these days…
Another wonderful album from the most consistently inventive American band around.
The Flaming Lips have called theirs an “accidental career,” which is one way of summing up the haphazard nature of their quarter-century trajectory, lurching from breakthrough radio hits like 1993’s “She Don’t Use Jelly” to quadraphonic experimentation on 1997’s Zaireeka, their only consideration apparently to do whatever the hell they feel like at any given moment.
And so Oklahoma’s finest have decided to follow the commercially successful triptych of The Soft Bulletin (1998), Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) and At War With the Mystics (2006) with a double-CD of their least accessible material since, well, Zaireeka.
Of course, being the Lips, even amid the squalls of noise and synth surges, there are beauteous melodies, but there are no accessible space-soul song-suites as per At War…, nor is there a “Do You Realize??” on this 18-track collection. The closest things are “The Impulse,” a gorgeous simple chord sequence with a vocoder’d top-line melody that sounds like something off Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, and “If,” an odd little fractured ballad sung by multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd that sounds like something from the Alex Chilton or Skip Spence twilight zones.
More typical of this sprawling, 72-minute set is “Aquarius Sabotage,” a screeching, careening brutal/beautiful melee that combines harps and feedback – it’s like hearing three different songs at once – and approximates the sound of early-70s Miles Davis playing the work of Yes. The freak-out, freeform jam session vibe is sustained throughout and reaches a peak of phantasmagorical wondrousness on “Silver Trembling Hands” – imagine Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” performed by Bitches Brew-era Miles, conducted by Burt Bacharach, with Bill Bruford on drums and the Six Million Dollar Man on bass. Typical of the Lips to make the obvious album opener the 16th track.
There are instances of Led Zep-ish power and gossamer interludes, moments when the Lips square the circle between Americana, psychedelia and prog, and special guests including Karen O, Lips heirs MGMT and a mathematician called Thorsten Wörmann – go figure indeed.
Embryonic may not sell as many copies or win as many converts as Bulletin or Yoshimi, but it’s another wonderful album – a veritable trove of speaker-pummelling delights – from the most consistently inventive and thrilling American band, R.E.M. included, of the last 25 years.
July 8, 1999 Salon article on head Lip Wayne Coyne, around the time of The Soft Bulletin…
Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne believes in the thrill of wonder, the miracle of everyday life and the extraordinary sound in his head.
For six years beginning in 1984, when the Flaming Lips wanted to make a point, they turned up their amps. They gave their songs monstrous guitar hooks, surging bass swings and huge beats, all infused with a catholic belief in the power of volume and noise. Around 1990, the band, marshaled by singer and guitarist Wayne Coyne, learned how to record, which allowed the psychedelic boho careerists to refine the noise and play around with cartoony pop for four records. A three-year set of sonic experiments followed, producing a parking lot symphony, a boombox orchestra and Zaireeka, the most adventurous record ever released by a major label – a set of four CDs engineered to play at the same time on four different machines.
The Soft Bulletin, the Flaming Lips’ 11th full-length record, is something else. It trades insanity for practiced weirdness, the whoosh of chemicals for the brightness of everyday life. “I want you to listen to it while you’re eating a sandwich,” says Coyne about the album, talking over the phone from the Lips compound in Oklahoma City. “In some ways it’s so crazy, more so than Zaireeka. Ideas can be of all qualities. That’s the magic of music: It doesn’t have to be about complicated things.”
His music is also, for the first time, subtle. But it’s so dense, so particular, that it’s easy to blow over the surface and pass it off in one or two listens. Stick with it. Turn it up and tune into the way the harmonies bounce off one another, the complexity of the lyrics, the fragility of Coyne’s delivery. The Soft Bulletin is sophisticated pop, a children’s record for adults who still listen to music on headphones.
The Soft Bulletin, if anything, is a record about wonder, the miraculousness of the mundane and the ability of ordinary people to connect with it. It’s also about the moment of discovery, the second that an idea cuts through reason and explodes into consciousness. “The Spark That Bled” is about cinder-block realizations, the times that you feel like you’ve been hit on the head with a colossal idea. For Coyne, the ideas blare like trumpets and fire off chain reactions. This is how he puts it in the song: “I stood up and said ‘Yeah!!’/I stood up and said, ‘Hey!! Yeah!!’”
“['The Spark That Bled'] implies that it’s a human condition to have ideas,” says Coyne. “It’s about how ideas come through your head and how that rejuvenates you.”
He says it another way in the Zaireeka liner notes: “Sometimes this force is so great that it seems to bypass all the usual checkpoints of reasoning, striking with such impact as to make its receiver appear insane, stupid or retarded, but nonetheless invigorated.”
The genius of The Soft Bulletin is that, musically, it uses the marvels of a high-tech recording studio to evoke Coyne’s sense of wonder. Produced by the Lips – now just Coyne, drummer Steven Drozd and bassist Michael Ivins after the loss of lead guitarist Ronald Jones — Dave Fridmann and Scott Booker, the music sweeps and swells, brightly popping out of the speakers. Tinking piano and smooth “oohs” underline soft drum shuffles on “Waitin’ for a Superman.” Synthesizers pick up a whistle, replicate it, and trail off as it fades into the distance on “The Spiderbite Song.”
There’s a certain cinematic quality to The Soft Bulletin, something that places it alongside the Broadway dreams of Mercury Rev’s last record, Deserter’s Songs. The lyrics at times read like plot outlines. And the stories are populated by ordinary heroes: They’re not artists or geniuses, they’re everyday people caught in the throes of discovery. In “Race for the Prize,” two scientists work toward an some sort of cure “for the good of all mankind.” The key to the song is its refrain: “They’re just humans/With wives and children.” The second song, “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton,” picks up the storyline after the scientists have saved the world. “And though they were sad/They rescued everyone/They lifted up the sun.”
It’s as if the pop effluvia that surrounds us bores The Flaming Lips, but instead of poking holes in it, they manufacture a parallel world for themselves. If pop culture exists in their songs, it’s vintage pop characters like Superman. The group once appeared in the Peach Pit on an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 at about minute 14 of their post-”She Don’t Use Jelly” fame, but its almost impossible to imagine them ever writing a song about it. They’re far more fascinated by humans, relationships and the natural world.
Bugs, for instance, are a regularly recurring theme on Lips records, from “Moth in the Incubator” on Transmissions from the Satellite Heart to “The Big Ol’ Bug Is the New Baby Now” on Zaireeka. The Soft Bulletin features “The Spiderbite Song” and “Buggin’” side by side. The first is a love letter from Coyne to the band. In the second, the bugs buzz around, “fly in the air as you comb your hair.” For Coyne, writing about bugs is, yet again, an expression of wonder. “I do think normal life is extraordinary,” he says. “Without sounding like some sort of born again weirdo, I do. Bugs are … cool. I think animals and all of those creatures are great things. Sometimes they’re good analogies and good metaphors. Sometimes they’re just fun.”
The Lips might have another fluke novelty hit, but they’re never going to appeal to a huge audience. Coyne’s voice is charming if you’re a fan, but it’s prohibitively whiny for most radio. And the band’s songwriting style skews toward repeated passages, musical echoes and long codas instead of direct verse-chorus-verse structures. Even their nods to orchestral pop of the ’60s doesn’t stand a chance of softening up a mainstream audience: Pet Sounds was the worst-selling Beach Boys record when it debuted in 1966, and didn’t even go gold.
But the Lips are worth watching, partly because they follow the kind of quirky ideas and fascinating brainstorms that you have to sell. The latest brainstorm is a tour revue, “not a festival with smart drinks and stuff,” says Coyne. “I feel like the audience would rather not spend all day watching bands. It’s the summer. We hate going to these shows when all these bands play for two-and-a-half hours. This will be two-and-a-half hours and you’ll get five or six bands. These are quality acts and it will be their best songs, all the hits, with a five-minute break.”
Coyne’s quality acts include oddball Robyn Hitchcock, Japanese pop star Cornelius, electronic acts DJ Kid Loco and ICU, Finnish techno band Panasonic and Sebadoh, the indie rock band that will hugely benefit from a stopwatch. “It’s my take on a variety show,” says Coyne.
Of course a variety show won’t be enough for the Lips. Coyne is still indulging the whimsy that prompted his boombox experiments. The Lips will tour with a small, portable low-watt radio station and at each venue, they’ll pass out receivers and headphones to the crowd. As the Lips play, they’ll broadcast a live performance of themselves to the radios. (Cornelius did a similar experiment in Japan, but he used the radio to add additional tracks to the stage sounds.)
“I did a lot of experimenting at home,” says Coyne. “When I go to a concert it’s the worst sound that I hear. We won’t do additional tracks. What you’ll hear is what you hear out of the speakers with a subtle EQ. It’s really is fun – it makes people involved. And people like it because they can go to the bathroom without missing a song.