Monday, May 5, 2014

The Joy of Old Lips

I'm a big Flaming Lips fan, but damn, they're making it difficult for me right now. I've no qualms with the bizarre musical B-road down which they've been hurtling since the release of Embryonic; heck, I even gave Wayne Coyne the benefit of the doubt when he said mean things about the Arcade Fire. But now he's fired his drummer, seemingly for no reason other than 'because he stood up for Native Americans', and...well, I'm finding it harder than ever to keep the Flaming faith.

Read the full story here, then go to if you're not sure why this photo caused offence in the first place.

I've been meaning to write a blog about The Flaming Lips' early Warner classics for some time now, mainly because people don't talk about Clouds Taste Metallic as often as they talk about Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and I want to encourage those people to dig a little deeper into the band's back catalogue. Now, though, I've a second reason to revisit their early nineties output: Scurlock's sacking has severely shaken my confidence in the Lips, and I could do with a reminder of why I loved them in the first place.

So here are three pre-Soft Bulletin albums that you should definitely investigate if you haven't already:

Hit to Death in the Future Head (1992)
Aside from being the band's major label debut and the album that, many years down the line, would give The Futureheads their name, Hit to Death is a summery treat that's chock-full of sweet tunes and psychedelic guitar riffs that could cleave rocks in half. Exhibit A: Halloween on the Barbary Coast.

There are calm, blissed-out moments too - The Sun has a beautiful brass part, and You Have to Be Joking (Autopsy of the Devil's Brain) is a startled meditation on evil but my favourite tracks are the full-throttle rockers like The Magician vs. The Headache and Talkin' 'Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues. Both numbers are ideal for jumping around the room and air drumming.

Transmissions from the Satellite Heart (1993)
Generally held to be the 'breakthrough' album, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart is so much more than 'The One with She Don't Use Jelly'. In fact, that isn't even the best song here - that accolade is jointly held by opening track Turn It On...

...and the bouncy, boisterous Be My Head.

It's not the easiest Lips album to get into, but there are plenty of good moments littered throughout the disc and so it's definitely worth a go. That said, Transmissions was really just a warm-up for the band's magnum opus...

Clouds Taste Metallic (1995)
Sure, I've already covered this one, but some albums are worth two blog posts. Clouds Taste Metallic is the best Flaming Lips album of all, as far as I'm concerned. It's the perfect example of the unfiltered joy that goes into their music; Bad Days, for example, is more uplifting than anything on Yoshimi:

Mind you, this record does have its fair share of emotional heft. They Punctured My Yolk is the tearjerking tale of an astronaut who doesn't get chosen to go on the big space mission, and so his astronaut girlfriend (who does get chosen) flies off into space and leaves him behind:

The smokin' riffs that made Hit to Death such an enjoyable listen are here in force, too. Check out the frantic 'n' furious Kim's Watermelon Gun...

...or The Abandoned Hospital Ship (specifically the ringing guitar pattern that rises up out of the song about halfway through).

Really, I could post every song from Clouds Taste Metallic and claim each one as an example of the album's genius. It's an album that simply can't fail to cheer you up, and so I'd strongly advise that you forget about the headdress furore and go check out this CD instead. You won't be disappointed.

No comments:

Post a Comment