The Flaming Lips
With a new, proper album out now (The Terror—to be reviewed at a later date) I thought it might be a good idea to edit and re post an old one on one of my all-time favorite bands.
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, but also their more, eh, abstract offerings.
Of course it all comes down to Wayne Coyne, chief architect/madman and main lyricist and songwriter, and to Steven Drozd, genius musician and sometimes heroin addict. Coyne has turned into, over the years, a kind of “guru hippy” for the Coachella Generation. He is the Fool On The Hill, albeit wearing a bunny suit and encased in a plastic bubble. He’s always wearing a silly grin, but he always gets the last laugh. He sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head see the world spinning ‘round. He is the man of a thousand voices and he talks perfectly loud. All that jazz and more.
Overall, The Lips have had an amazing career: Twelve proper albums since 1986, Eight of which rate a good 7/10 or higher and five out of those eight that would rate a 9 or 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 when I need a Lips Fix, partly because of its rampant musical eclecticism and partly because it kind of ties everything I always loved about the Lips into one gloriously messy 70+ minute package. The early Lips were all about sonic terrorism (lighting their cymbals on fire with lighter fluid, 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 (while maintaining a degree of weirdness), and Flaming Lips Mach III 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 (Soft Bulletin through At War With The Mystics, their most underrated effort) , and from there I worked my way backwards through their discography while waiting for the next release. Ranking a band like the Flaming Lips, for me, is surprisingly easy. I have spoken to others who vehemently disagree with my choices, but that’s the fun in creating such a list. Controversy is key. I believe Wayne and Co. would agree.