Tag: The Flaming Lips
It’s hard to keep track of everything The Flaming Lips put out these days. The last few years have been quite prolific – multiple singles and collaborations seemed to arise faster than most nerds like myself could even listen to. Let alone trying to eat through an entire Gummy Fetus to get to them. Thus it’s no surprise that with the release of their new album, The Terror, only weeks away, they suddenly decide to release an absurd video for “Ashes in the Air” – the collab they made last year with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. If you’ve never heard the song before, then quickly imagine The Lips and Bon Iver together, and say the first things that comes to your mind. If you said, “Oh, I don’t know… some spun-out noise shit with Wayne Coyne singing about getting fucked up while Vernon echoes him in that auto-tune voice he likes to use…” then Bingo – we have a winner! Of course that’s what the song sounds like. Nobody would have given it the time of day if it was anything different. If they released some sort of barber-shop track with a hip-hop beat, people would have considered it a complete waste of their personas.
Which leads me to my point… When you have become an established artist, and have thus crafted a definitive mold for who you are and what you sound like, you are then in some degree indebted to your fans and yourself to maintain that persona. Sure, musicians need to evolve, but you should never turn your back on who you are. When I hear the RZA is producing a new album, I’m gonna be seriously disappointed if there aren’t some dirty analog beats in there. Bruce Springsteen better include some commentary on the underbelly of America on his records. And again, this doesn’t mean you should pigeonhole yourself into one limited fabric of sound, but you should never intentionally run from who you are. There’s a reason Phish fans didn’t embrace the happy-and-you-know-it vibe that was embraced mightily on their last album – despite their hippie-ish connotations, their music is not happy-go-lucky stuff. There’s a reason nobody gave a fuck about Gene Ween‘s solo record as Aaron Freeman – nobody wants to hear a guy do an album that is nothing but covers of some forgotten 70′s crooner when that guy is known for being one of the most original and inventive songwriters on the planet. And sure this isn’t a golden rule of music, because there’s plenty of notable exceptions. Radiohead‘s constant desire to reinvent themselves is one of the greatest blessings ever given to the world of music, and MGMT‘s diversion from dance-pop brought us a new realm of dark introspective material that teeny-boppers desperately needed to be exposed to. So no, it’s not a rule, but it’s a lesson. It’s something an artist should always consider. If you’ve become well known for music that is most assuredly you being yourself, then are you staying true to yourself when you attempt to stray from your notoriety?
Which leads me back to the video for “Ashes in the Air” – again, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind after hearing the song. “Oh, I don’t know… maybe some alien-astronaut kind-of-guy puts a baby in a meat-grinder or something, and there’s like naked, bloody people lying around… Oh, and that dude from Bon Iver’s head keeps like statically flashing…” Bingo! Enjoy…
So of all the collaborations that Wayne Coyne and the Lips crew have been going for the past year or so, none have been so instinctually perfect as that with Neon Indian. I don’t really care about this new one coming out with Ke$ha – no that’s a lie actually, I can’t wait to hear how insane it’s going to be – but either way, with this Neon Colab I knew what it’d be like and how much I’d dig it before I even heard it. The EP they released together came in somewhere around #22 on my Top 50 of 2011 list. Here’s the live cut form this past New Year’s – and yes, it probably was way more radical in person wicked high on psychedelics.
50-41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40-31 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=124
30) Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
- Of all the young kids that Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox has obviously influenced, no one has been able to define their own voice as much as this youngen from Boise. Floating vocals are strengthened by big bass kicks and an incredible ear for uncluttered melodies. Trevor Powers sounds like the kid from the movie version of Where the Wild Things Are recording an album in his basement 10 year later – incredibly warm and caring, comfortably alone, and with echoes of Karen O ringing in his ears.
29) Broken Bells – Meyrin Fields EP
- Danger Mouse can bring anybody up a few notches on the bad-ass ladder, and James Mercer should forever be in his debt. There’s just something so much ballsier about these tunes than anything The Shins ever put out. There may only be 4 tunes on this EP, but they’re just as dope as those on the debut LP. This is the kind of music that makes you feel like you’re James Bond stealth attacking an evil-madman’s Icelandic lair while an enormous joint hangs off your lip.
28) War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
- Finally somebody brought a taste of dream-pop into a successful cohesion with that classic Americana feel. Once fronted by Kurt Vile, a whole new lineup seems to have ignited this band into an amazing album that falls somewhere between the land cohabitated by Dire Straits and My Bloody Valentine. Adam Grunduciel has some amazing ideas on here – the kind that make you want to start your own shoegaze band all over again.
27) Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
- Death Cab makes killer albums, that’s all there is to it. They may always be the great bridge between middle-aged hipsters and tween-age girls, but once you let go of all preconceptions they can totally take control of your heart. There’s no direct radio hit on Codes and Keys, and that’s a good thing. If you’ve spent any time with the classic Transatlanticismi¸ this is in many ways its’ sister album. Incredible drum lines shape the entire album, much in the same way that Jason McGerr helped mold the songs on Transatlanticism, his first album with the band. And portending his breakup from Zooey Deschanel, it’s quite obvious that Ben Gibbard writes way better songs when his heart is a little broken.
26) Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
- I’m sure they let you smoke butts in heaven, and Kurt Vile couldn’t have been more right on then crafting this image for his music. These solo, acoustic tunes are drifty and dreamy, but at the same time they make me want to drink shitty beer. The imagery and flow to the tunes make em’ sound like an old Sonic Youth album stripped down to its’ most naked form. First listen is casual, and then it may consume you.
25) The Flaming Lips – Gummy Song Skull EP (and) Lips w/ Neon Indian
- Wayne Coyne and cohorts have been a friggin’ psych-rock factory the past year or so. It seems like they released a new EP every month, so I had to include 2 here on my list. The tracks contained inside a 7 pound human skull made of gummy sound like a Phish soundcheck where everybody’s trying out a new synthesizer. And of all the collabortations they keep releasing, nothing was more natural than these 4 tracks with Neon Indian. Somehow eerie and uplifting at the same time.
24) The New Mastersounds – Breaks From the Border
- When this English four-piece announced they would be including vocals on their new album, my reaction was “Well, say goodbye to one of the tightest funk acts you’ve ever seen.” But lo and behold, something magical happened – instead of being sonic peers to 1997-era Medeski and Scofield, they became the only band that could ever live up to the heritage of The Meters. Soul, speed, and perfection – you can picture the Neville Borthers cranking this album in their homes.
23) Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song
- My favorite pop-rock band in quite some time. It is insanely tough to write this music without sounding like complete tools, but they mix the ideal parts of melody, fun, and rock to make an amazingly perfect pop album. So much groovier and more interesting than Edward Sharpe or any of the other quasi-popular indie-pops band out there today. I crank this record when I’m home by myself.
22) Tyler the Creator – Goblin
- I haven’t had music make me feel this way since the 2nd Eminem album came out. Inappropriate “F” words flow freely, plenty of murder, and the most innovative beats on the scene today. This is America, and we are legally allowed to be as politically-incorrect as we want to be. You gotta respect a kid who is definitely not afraid to have FoxNews blame him for all our problems. I love this shit.
21) Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings
- Dylan Baldi has already released his 2012 album which finds his sound progressing in unfathomably fast ways, but this eponymous disc is his primary statement of purpose. The finest in today’s neo-punk scene – these songs are fast, hard, and yet full of incredible melodies. If the kid likes a line, he’ll repeat it just to the point where you’re ready to bash your head against the wall, and that’s a huge part of the reason why I dig this album so much.
Here’s the link to my review of The Lips playing the greatest set I’ve personally ever seen them before – a transcendent live rendering of their masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. A warm, crisp summer night on an island in Montreal is the perfect place to get a little spun and hear a band perform one of your favorite albums – I highly recommend it. It was fucking beautiful, and got really, emotionally heavy at times. Wayne Coyne cried, I cried, and he gave an amazing speech halfway through about how he, as an in-tune and intelligent human-being, is aware that we are all haunted by the eternal sadness – the darkness that lies in the underbelly of all reality, and how music, and friends, and orgasms are the real way to rise above that. Twas dope. If you’ve given up on The Flaming Lips, now really is the time to get back in touch with em. Here’s a clip of the review, a link to it, and a clip of his amazing laser-hands:
“So as the band emerged from the vagina of a giant, naked woman pounding a cymbal and flying through space, I got one of the biggest shit-eating grins I’ve ever friggin’ had. As this show occurred a fortnight prior to their million-dollar lighting rig getting destroyed in an Oklahoma thunderstorm, (what the fuck was up with stage collapses this summer?!?!), their audio-video syncopation was at an epically high crescendo. While past Lips gigs have left a bad taste in my mouth due to a misdirected focus on the visual aspect of the show, this night was a harmonious boner of everything this band knows and dreams they can be. And lest anyone be confused, guitarist/keyboardist/live sonic wizard, Steven Drozd was beyond human in what he was musically doing on that stage.”
Finally, there’s a reason to believe in Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips again…I have somewhat lamented about the reingestion of the Lips’ collective balls over the past decade. I got into this band originally because they were this quasi-punk, boisterous, over-the-top, trippy, original-as-all-hell, fun shit. But then they really started to tone things down with Yoshimi, and just playing Dark Side of the Moon repeatedly wasn’t enough to suffice the longings of fans like myself who knew this band was capable of more. Perhaps using their new embrace of The Soft Bulletin as a catalyst into their forgotten selves, 2011 has seen the band release something new each month, and it just keeps getting better. In the past month or so, there have been 2 huge ones: their collaborative EP with Neon Indian, which not only sounded like a great idea on paper, but also sounds great…and their Gummy Skull EP, which was released on USB drives kept inside of 7-pound human skulls made of edible gummy – also cool as all hell-fire. This band is really fucking dope again, and it feels like they’re honoring the passing of Owsley Stanley in true fashion here in 2011. Here’s snips and links to my reviews of both EPs below:
And in a related note, Wayne’s twitter account is hilarious, and well worth following if you’re on that new digital train: http://twitter.com/#!/waynecoyne
http://www.stateofmindmusic.com/entry/1265/The-Flaming-Lips-with-Neon-Indian—The-Flaming-Lips-with-Neon-Indian-/ “Right from the start individual familiarities are blurred and lost‚ and the hybrid beast that remains demands an eerie embrace. “Is David Bowie Dying” sounds just like its title — a distant death march for Major Tom — like you’re watching your Ziggy Stardustvinyl spin into the void of space. A steady beat akin to the breathing of an iron bullfrog is flavored throughout with the seeming cries of a tortured robot while Wayne Coyne’s voice echoes desperately in the distance like he’s having a bad mescaline trip in the corner of an unfinished basement.”
http://www.stateofmindmusic.com/entry/1262/The-Flaming-Lips—Gummy-Song-Skull/ “”Drug Chart” sounds exactly like what you would think the opener for an EP would sound like if The Flaming Lips made you eat 7 pounds of gummy to get to it. Warm and raw, a super-echoed drum-kit pounds steady and strong in a way that would induce visions if you had just consumed 3 weeks worth of sugar in one colossal, gummy binge.”
As a fairly long and devoted fan of The Flaming Lips, my main, huge gripe with the Oklahoma space-launchers is that their shows had become ridiculously formulaic. Focusing on presenting an epic full-sense attack of a rock concert, the band has evolved away from ever performing some of their greatest songs – specifically any of those on their brilliant 1999 album, The Soft Bulletin.
The predecessor to their enormously popular album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, I have been accused in the past of only preferring Soft Bulletin over Yoshimi due to the public’s embrace of Yoshimi and my tendency to loathe popularity. While in some instances such an assumption would be totally just, in this case I just honestly love the Soft Bulletin. It’s probably in my Top 10 list of 90′s albums.
Either way, last month at the band’s Oklahoma City New Year’s Eve show, the band celebrated by playing Soft Bulletin in its’ entirety. Hallefuckinlullah! And after just announcing the rest of their Spring tourdates, the band has announced they’ll play the whole album 4 more times – Sasquatch Fest, Chicago, Atlanta, and London. The whole ‘play an entire album’ trend seems to only be continuing with other acts like Queens of the Stone Age just announcing that they’ll be playing their first album during the upcoming tour. Many complained when Built to Spill kept performing Perfect From Now On last year, but Doug Martsch and his boys play alot of those songs already. The Lips should be able to keep people entertained since they usually barely play any of these tracks, and hopefully some of them will work their way into the band’s regular rotation. Here’s a rare performance of my fave, “The Gash” from a few years back: