Talkin’ ‘Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues

The Flaming Lips are forever searching for meaning; the meaning of success, of failure, of death and life, of love and of hate. It’s obvious in not only their “popular” songs such as Do You Realize?, The Sound Of Failure and, from Clouds Taste Metallic, Evil Will Prevail. Even a song as on the surface silly as The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song contains a message of “What if?” within its lyrics:

“If you could blow up the world

With the flick of a switch

Would you do it?

(yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah)

If you could make everybody poor

Just so you could be rich

Would you do it?

 (yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah)

With all your power

What would you do?”

Of course it all comes down to Wayne Coyne, chief architect/madman and main lyricist and songwriter. He is, pure and simple, a guru hippy. He is the fool on the hill, so to speak. He’s always wearing a silly grin, but you know what? He sees the sun going down and the eyes in his head sees the world spinning ‘round. He is the man of a thousand voices and he talks perfectly loud.

The Lips have had an amazing career. 12 proper albums since 1986, 8 of which rate a good 7/10 or higher and 5 out of those that would rate a 9 or a 10 out of 10.

Their latest and greatest, 2009’s double album Embryonic, is one of those masterpieces. It’s the one Lips album I come back to tome and time again when I need a fix, partly because of it’s rampant eclecticism and partly because it kind of ties everything I always loved about the Lips into one 70+ minute package. The early Lips were all about sonic terrorism (lighting their cymbols on fire, starting a Harley Davidson on stage, etc), the mid period Lips (from In A Priest Driven Ambulance to Clouds Taste Metallic) were about childlike whimsy and melody but still maintained a little abrasion here and there, and Mach III Flaming Lips focused on science fiction and The Deep Questions that plague all of our dreams. I came in just in time to catch the beginning of their third stage, and from there I worked my way backwards through their discography while waiting for the next release. I stopped at 199’s In A Priest…because the albums prior to that were a little off putting. They sounded, back then, like the sad little brother of the more accomplished Butthole Surfers.

Embryonic divided fans and didn’t win them any new converts. The way it’s produced, it can be an abrasive record upon the first couple of spins. Distortion is heavy, the playing raw and has a live sound to it that’s unlike any other Flaming Lips Record. It’s also a very progressive sounding album (as in “prog-rock”), the ‘concept’ being held together by a series of instrumental passages that act as little astrology motifs. Really, though, the concept is the same as it has been with all of the Flaming Lips LP’s since the early ‘90’s: one man’s search for the meaning of life.

If you are new to the Flaming Lips and want to give them a go, here’s where I would start, in order from most accessible to most experimental and challenging and raw. They’re all great, though.

The Soft Bulletin

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

Clouds Taste Metallic

Transmissions From The Satellite Heart

At War With The Mystics

Embryonic

In A Priest Driven Ambulance

Hit To Death In The Future Head

Zaireeka

Oh My Gawd!!! The Flaming Lips

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