THE FLAMING LIPS
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Andrew <firstname.lastname@example.org> (20.07.2004)
Hello George, I've been reading your site for a while now, but I just decided to send my first comment now, as you've finally finished the page of my favorite band, the Flaming Lips.First of all, I think the Lips deserve a 4. It seems it's a crime for you to give a "Nineties Band" a 4, but the Lips don't have that typical "Nineties Band" feel. Plus, I think you'd be a bit more generous to a band that loves the Beatles almost as much as you do. I think the main problem lies in "Resonance". Yes, it's true that the Lip's strongest strength is their excellent songwriting, (in the mid-later period), but there's something else to them, surely. Coyne's lyrics are weird. The band may be the weirdest band of the past 20 years. His lyrics are surely not something you'd call some kind of "great poetic lyricism" (even though he does spout a few excellent lines on Priest, but that's my fandom talking) or something from someone like Dylan, Lennon or Waits. Or even Springsteen. But let's not go there. Coyne's appeal lies in that he's insane. No, he really is. He discovered this before the Soft Bulletin, he has some kind of mental disorder. Probably caused by too much acid. Syd Barrett Syndrome? Anyway, you even said: I don't mean to say that Coyne always looks at the world through rose-coloured glasses - far from it; the idealism I'm speaking of is always mixed with sadness, and the sadness naturally arises from seeing the world exactly as it is. There is a song on one of the band's best albums called 'Christmas At The Zoo'... remember it? The one where Wayne sings about how he opens all the cages but the animals refuse to leave? That song, in a nutshell, summarizes both the Lips' artistic philosophy and their actual fate Coyne sings about things that seem to be silly or weird, but he really truly believes he's singing something gorgeous and profound. Maybe it's just because I love this band, but I don't think there's a band around today that sparks more emotion in me than the Lips. It seems like Coyne loves everything he's doing and everything he's singing about, and he wants you to love it too. and how can I refuse that? Look at 'The Abandoned Hospital Ship'. Listen to Coyne's cracking delivery. Doesn't he seem heartfelt there? He does to me. I think the Lips deserve a 5/5 in resonance. Or at least a 4/5. I mean, you even kind of proved this to yourself: How many other bands have 3 10's? Meaning, how many other bands, besides "THE GOLDEN FOUR (Beatles, Dylan, Stones, Who) have made "peak albums" 3 times? Not many. Oh well, I'm not asking you to changfe anything, just rambling like a lunatic. and by, the way, I think Priest deserves a 12. But once again, it's just my inner fanboy talking.
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Eric B. <email@example.com> (02.05.2004)
i'd probably say this was more of an 11 than the debut. better songs! plus i don't think this is a generic indie rock album: i think it's a generic rock album. but even this early in their career the band knows how to write good songs. and GREAT riffs, even if i dunno wayne might rip them off i'm not sure. i think 11 is a bit closer to my opinion.
Eric B. <firstname.lastname@example.org> (14.05.2004)
i really like most of this album. one million blah blah is a masterpiece as far as i'm concerned, and there's not a weak song on here. this was the kind of stuff i listened to pretty heavily about 4 years ago, and i still have a soft spot for it, i think the songs are good. i'd give it probably an 11 too. their early stuff is pretty consistent.
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George, first off, as an avid reader of yours since near the start of your website, I can't express how excited and juiced I am now that you are reviewing the Flaming Lips, (just get your Ween page off the ground, and I'll be even more a happy camper). But anyways, in terms of the Lips story, this is as far back as my record collection for them starts, (actually I have the reissue The Day they Shot a Whole in the Jesus Egg). I think you nailed your description of this album and the band by saying something along the lines that they pine to be a phychedelic, dare I say revolutionary rock group, all while keeping their space shoes on the ground. I love the first five songs on this album the most, starting with the powerful 'Screamin,' and unlike you I adore the Beatle references in 'Five Stop Mother Superior Rain'. To me it represents some abstract admitance that I'd wish more indie rock bands would make; that the Beatles are the start of garage/indie rock, and that they are the absolute king/Gods/overlords of everything Indie Rock is. I love bands that try to fit in with underlying oft hidden chronology of the evolution of quality creative rock and roll, and I think bands like the Lips and Ween especially fall in that category of holding up a torch for the 'greater story' of what rock is, how it reflects whatever time it is, and where it is ultimatly heading. Now I'm not saying that little reference qualifies my theory about the story of 'serious/humanistic/universal rock,' whatever the hell that even is, but I'm saying that listening to, and getting serious with a band like the Lips will tune you into that vibe, presuming that it exists. Actually, fuck it, the story does exist because as each new generation of serious songwriters/rockers dawn, they are charged with the task of almalgamating the entire history of the noise into something new and fresh to inspire the next generation. The Lips do that, and as time would pass from this album, they'd get better, a rock and roll miracle!!! Let the magical Beatle spirit never die, and God bless the Flaming Lips! (How's that for taking music too seriously in a positive mannor, haha, thanks again Lips).
David Goodwin (25.05.2004)
'Take Me Ta Mars (Priest Driven Ambulence)': Am I the only person on earth who hears very distinct connections to Can's "Mushroom" in this song?
Joe <email@example.com> (22.09.2005)
This album is the start of when these guys really started to show what kind of talent they've been hiding all these years. Of course, it's still a few years removed from Hit To Death, where they really showed tremendous creativity, but still an album with very much promise.My favorite is "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain", besides that "Wonderful World" cover, which theoretically beats all these other songs to hell. I really do like that former song though. It reminds me strongly of the type of singer/songwriter country stuff that was going on in the 70's (pretty Stonesy too, doncha think?), although that Bowie comparison is undeniable. Other highlights are also "God Walks Among Us Now", which reminds me of "Pilot At The Queer Of God" from Transmissions Of The Satellite Heart, and which is very noisily hypnotic, yet very melodic. "There You Are" is also a very quiet song for the Lips, which is very welcome. Ohh and "Shine On Sweet Jesus" rips off "Baby You're A Rich Man" a bit in the verses, but i really don't care for picking out what song rips off what. Although i MUST say that "Take Me Ta Mars" is obviously very similar to Can's "Mushroom". Homage or what?
Completly agree with your review again and the rating. 'Smiling Deathporn' is one of the greatest Flaming Lips songs ever, and I think a classic song in its own right. Just a little note to you and the other Flaming Lips fans, at the Flaming Lips website, http://www.flaminglips.com, you can watch all of the Flaming Lips music videos, and in from this album, you can see the unique and wonderful videos for 'Frogs' and the above mentioned song. And to straiten something out, that is not a bass line, it is a Doo Wop Wop vocal line, as the video elucidates. Although now I get the sneaky suspicion that you are going to give the Lips a 3/5 on the artist scale, which is your perogative being that it is a close call with a band like the Lips, but I really think they are a 4. I mean, I would look at it this way, is the Police's overall catalog and chronology more fun then the Flaming Lips??? The Lip's artistic growth is like a musical orgasam of realized optimism and ambition. Back to my Police comparison, I'd say its a clear no, especially when you count in the sheer power and beauty of the Zarieeka project, although I'm sure you are probably gonna low ball that rating out of the complexness of its format, but dammit I say that's your fault and not the Lips. Consider this my Bush like 'premeptive strike' against my presumed prediction of you playing down the Lips one musical weapon of mass destruction. How's that for confusing, daggonit! Bring on the next record!!
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John McFerrin <firstname.lastname@example.org> (16.06.2004)
One thing that wasn't mentioned was that this album provides, by far, the best moment in the movie Batman Forever: the part where 'Bad Days' is playing in the background while Jim Carrey's character is trying to come up with an identity for the supervillian he wants to become. I heard the song long before I knew of this band, and I was so very happy when it turned out to be this album's closer.
Well, hmmm, I actually agree with all of your complaints on this record, its a bit too loud, and when I first heard it in in 1999, it did indeed take me a half a dozen listens before I loved it dearly. I think when I was listening to the songs indivudally at first, I was hesitant, I mean these are sorta clunky, heavy phychedelic pop tunes, and all the power of the faster ones are like massive whales or elephants stampeding slowly, but destructivly across the terrain, and THAT IS SORTA graining. But, also, this is one of the greatest albums of the 90s, the melodies, the structures, and the pop weridness of them is brilliant says I. You DO grow to love this record en masse, a big ole slab of rainbowed Oklahoma American phychedelia. It's optimistic, it's happy, it's universal, and it will endure, and that's why I think it'll be embraced over time more then lets say an REM record, and is more a delicious musical treat then anything by Nirvana, despite paling in historical relevance, and also it kicks Radiohead in the ass frankly. If you love rock and roll, you love guitars, and if you GET rock and roll, you'll love the Lips cause they love guitar and they are actually creative with it, not minimalistic, and not cliched, not ashamed of it, and I think that's why in someways this is the holy grail of 90s guitar pop. Radiohead surrendered their guitar power for gloominess and conceptual music projects, Fountains of Wayne just turned up the volume on 60s styled rock, Oasis did more or the less same as Fountains but had worse songs, Blur sounds way too British and much too like The Smiths for me, REM had this way too commerical muted guitar sound, Weezer just sucks, and they all copied Nirvana's pop loudness in a way. But the Lips are different, they were around as long as Nirvana, were very loud and abusive from the beginning, and actually in a way Clouds Taste Metallic is maybe the most articulate indie/underground/post punk reaction to the overbearing commerical success of Nirvana. CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!! In 1995, rock was full of power chording grungie post Nirvana depression music, and an emerging dumbed down gararge punk ethic that was really really stupid and pointless, not to mention the record companies co-opting the whole situation by floating massive shitty acts like Hootie and the Blowfish, and every other lite one hit wonder passed as rock, basically just a ton of phony rock postering. It all began to really sink the rock and roll ship Nirvana ressurrected, espeically a year after Captain Cobain bit the bullet. So here are the Lips in 1995 offereing a stampede missle of love and optimism through all the mess of noise and crap proliferating the free world. And it was ignored commerically of course, but how could it not be, jon q public either became mister cynical in the wake of the crap that the music industry was offering, or was being brainwashed by coporate rockshit. The Lips fit into neither category, and were too strange and not offensive enough at the same time to warrent any attention. Just like the Beatles in 1966 or 1967, too strange, but not too offensive, but the only difference being a worldwide fanbase of growing teenage girls and boys. There just must have been scores of Beatle fans who needed about 25 listens (drugs too) of 'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'I am the Walrus', or hell even 'Eleanor Rigby', to figure out what the hell that music was about, and that suprise suprise, it was not only safe to listen to, but was unbelievably life alteringly awesome!! The Lips, are direct heirs to that type of rewarding, fun, endlessly replayable, shocking and werid at first songwriting, well maybe not direct heirs, but heirs nonetheless! But like I said, I agree with your musical arguments, and that's why you rule as a reviewer, the very fact that you can have this kind of critical debate on the Flaming Lips, sort of attacking them, and understanding their relevance at the same time, but maintaing your musical knowledge cred to give an honest and fair evaluation of their music, just completly comendable. But, also, think about us pleaban rock fans who care like you! The Lips were just flat out ignored and dropped from the radar screen by the mass rock world, and we are sorta forced to fight for the Lips acknowledgment from people who just don't care in the first place. I agree, a 13. But I will fight you when I know you will deny Zarieeka 14. In the context of Zarieeka, they were just getting started, Cause if Clouds is the Lips Revolver, then Zarieeka is the Lips Super Sgt. Pepper. But all in good time, the very best George, never quit.
Andrew Brotherton <email@example.com> (21.04.2006)
Clouds Taste Metallic is the last album by the guitar driven, psychedelic rock version of the Flaming Lips. After this record Ronald Jones (the bands main guitarist at the time) left the band and has not returned. This would force the Lips into a new musical direction, but here on his last record with the band his influence is clear. He helped sculpt the genius of Steven Drozds and the vision of Wayne Coyne into the best album of the Lips long career. It is no coincidence that the Flaming Lips had to refocus and change their musical direction after Ronald left. He was an important component to the bands psychedelic rock attack. Clouds is basically Transmission from the Satellite Heart on steroids. The quality of the great songs from Satellite Heart remains, the only difference is that this time there are just more of them. Upon first listen standout tracks will be "Brainville", "This Here Giraffe", "Christmas at the Zoo" and "Bad Days". After multiple spins the album really starts to show its brilliance. Songs like "When You Smile" and "Evil Will Prevail" once pounded into your brain are about as good as the Lips get. On "They Punctured My Yolk" the listener gets just a taste of what is to come with The Soft Bulletin. A chorus of voices rains down in all it's fuzzed out psychedelic glory. This is the Flaming Lips at their most mighty. Do not hesitate to buy this record. It is a 10.
I just knew it, and of course I can't blame you for the rating, I mean, Zarieeka is not an automatic hands down 15, but, its also defiantly not a 12 or 13 for that matter. In a perfect world, where you have 4 wonderful stereo systems, and some eager friends helping you coordinate the whole thing, Zarieeka is brilliant, a glistening 14. I mean, before I get to the music or the experience; I must say that if you were one of the lucky few somehow following this band from the beginning of their thrashing amateur pie in the sky days, gathering all of their releases over time, and hearing the evolution of this gimmicky band come to THIS, its one of the sweetest musical rewards. So, all I gotta say is that one day, you have to hear the 4 Stereo experience, because its just so much more FUN. This is why I think the album is a 14, it is simply a blast to listen to. Get a bunch of friends and throw a Zarieeka party, and you'll see what I mean. How many other albums out there are just plain ole fun to listen to these days??? or ever??? I mean, just as a THING that exists, ITS JUST FUN. The first time I played it, I had the four stereos, and a bunch of my music loving/musician friends over, we played it, and we were just laughing are asses off, as strange exotic music was just emanating from all over the place, I felt like I was in a jungle of sound, I felt like I was living in the 21st Century for real, and we were all having a grand time, it was a damn near cathartic experience. It's the best party album made for music fans. I got half my dorm hooked to Flaming Lips in my freshmen year of college cause one day my friends and I had the album playing, and bunches of people stopped by to step into our little room of sound, all blown away by the effect. Then, we took it to the next level and put on 6 Sgt. Peppers, and then the Who's Tommy, it was like we were at a concert. 3D music is just awesome, and we have the Lips to thank. The songs themselves lose half of their power, when the sound comes from just one source. When the album surrounds you though, you are literally sucked into the world of the Flaming Lips. It's just wonderful.
Nikita Kokorin <firstname.lastname@example.org> (13.06.2005)
The example of adequate pretentiousness' comes to my mind. Wayne makes a lot of art-rockish instrumentation here, with overblown concept. But he sings so heartfelt, like a cross between Ray Davies, John Lennon and Jon Anderson, and it works. He compensates bombast with humble. I'd take Soft Bulletin over A Night In The Opera any day, because Queen members only added one bombast trick after another.Of course, beautiful, majestic, wonderfully melodic experience. I think only some problems with consistency prevent Soft Bulletin from 14. I don't like both instrumentals and Radiohead-like The Gash'. And reason why some reviewers rate the album as B' or somewhat escapes my mind. How could such WORK get less than 13 or A?
Dave Dickson <email@example.com> (24.04.2006)
Ah the Lips. As far as the "them descending into the grave w/o the guitar" theory, I have to say I tentatively agree: I've only heard Soft Bulletin and the Yoshimi album, and to me this band doesn't sound like they have the songwriting skills to be spectacular on keyboards, acoustics, and drums alone. They're good, true, but only early-Who good. This album has been decreed "Best Of The Entire Nineties" by All Music Guide, but that's a little dubious, in my own opinion. At any rate, I envy not the man who had to listen to every single record made in the '90's to make that assessment.As far as the whole "world not noticing this album because rock and roll is dying" bit goes, though, I guess this relates all the way back to Essay #1. I'm not going to argue in favor or in disfavor of the hypothesis, but I do think it absolutely depends on one's definition of "rock is dead." I absolutely agree with you on the idea of it having long exhausted its use as a cultural force (although maybe on the small scale; witness how grunge, hip- hop, and electronica developed over the '80's as extremely localized urban phenomenae), but if you're going to argue that music as a whole is of a lesser entertainment value today than it was thirty years ago, I'm going to have to call your bluff. The key word here is "popularity." What would have been popular thirty years ago languishes in the 10,000's of copies sales level, and what would have been sub-silver in sales thirty years ago dominates MTV. In other words, bad music vastly exceeds good music in terms of COPIES sold. But do are bad artists, bad bands, and bad albums actually in greater numbers than they were? Not a jot. They're just much easier to find. The problem is, there's only so much room at the top, and the economic structure of the music business has become much more streamlined and moldable than was the case in, say, 1971. Basically, good music, through its quintessential unpredictability, is harder to market than predictable music in today's marketing structure. Hence the music-listener of today has to dig deep and search dilligently into the underground in order to find something of value, to a horrifically greater extent that one would have to in '71, when the greatest artists alive could typically be found on the front rack of the record store. So the underground contains what would be the equivalent of The Who, the Kinks, and Neil Young back in the day. Are they less in number than the good bands of 1971? No. They just sell far less copies. "But wait a minute," the argument goes, "You're giving innovation the short shrift. And musical innovation obviously exhausted itself in the early '80's." From an intellectual standpoint, true. Take this album, however. Awash in all the Magical Mystery Tour, Pet Sounds, and Another Green World it can stand, right? Sure, it may be lyrically indigenous to the '90's, but lyrics and themes never killed the cat. The key here is TEXTURE. No '60's hippy or '70's ambient man worth his salt, transplanted into 1999, would mistake an album like this, even disregarding the lyrics, as being a product of his time. Although the substance is as derivative as derivative can get, the means of projecting said substance, as you noted, is as different as different can get. In fact, I sincerely doubt that a person from 1992 would recognize this album as possible in his time. The electronic arrangements on here, though not necessarily technologically revolutionary, simply did not have a welcome incubator on the indie-rock scene even after Nirvana "sold it out." Now, keep in mind, this is all coming from the perspective of one who adamantly refuses to treat his rock, pop, and other music from an intellectual perspective. To this individual, style, texture, and surface count for a heck of a lot more than they would were I actually writing a book on the subject. That said, I can't claim not to have grown a few subconscious pretensions related to my number two hobby over the years. And to all who maintain that music in general has fallen into the sewer because MTV refuses to give them what they're looking for, I say they need to look past what's captured the public consciousness and actually take the effort to look for the grain amongst the chaff. However, I hope those reading this comment do NOT take that as another implied slight. What I'm saying just applies to grouchers in general (particularly those living in Houston, Texas that luuuuve Kenny Chesney and, paradoxically, refuse to admit hip-hop as actual music. Bunch hypocrites). I don't imply slights, George. I say slights straight out (not slightly). :) "Water under the bridge"? Well, it's a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Breaking out from the City of Really Kool Car Chases in 1991 with the overlong funk-rock coaster Bloodsugarsexmagik, this phallic phoursome made the men get wet, the women get hard, and have contagious chlamydia come clamoring up the
As already said The Flaming Lips further abandon the distortion and loud guitars of earlier albums and concentrate on electronics and acoustic guitars. This was my entry point as a Lip's fan when I was 15 and it's been a companion ever since. I've also been in awe of Wayne Coyne's knack of singing about grand and epic themes such as death ( eg 'Do You Realise?') and making them personal and heartfelt. His inability to sing in the conventional sense is one of the endearing qualities of the Lips and it's no better emphasised on this album, with his voice cracking behind the epic strings and soundscapes on many of the tracks. I think the Flaming Lips have found their more 'grown-up,adult' sound(normally an evil phrase in rock n roll circles) on this record with simple acoustic strums accompanied by effects and bleeps creating a more futuristic sound to the 60s style foundations. This album, as does Soft Bulletin, has huge prog rock leanings with the influence of Yes and Pink floyd clear. Overall a great modern rock album. Why arent these men taking over the world?