US - Oklahoma - Full Moon 71 - 07/24/02
Why I Love The Flaming Lips
When everyone suddenly starts raving about a band that's dear to you there's always the
temptation to come over as an indie elitist and go on about how you were there first, how you've
got all their albums, and that they were your favourite band years ago. SHUT UP AND LET EVERYONE
ELSE ENJOY THE MAGIC. The Flaming Lips are a band to share, a band to make the world smile, and
they make music to fall in love with.
I wasn't there at the start, but the music they made in the first ten years or so is pretty
trashy punk rock and doesn't have a lot going for it. Steer clear of Hear It Is (1986),
Telepathic Surgery (87) and Oh My Gawd!! (89). Instead, check out the following
and start feeling good:
1. The Soft Bulletin
(WEA/Warner Bros. 1999)
Everyone's heard this right? Right? If you haven't, get it now. It's a damn masterpiece,
right from the off. It does have the rather annoying repetition of two of the tracks as remixes,
but that's forgiven when the songs in question are "Race For The Prize" and "Waitin' For A
Superman". Broadly speaking it's a concept album about man's relationship with science, our
place on earth, our mortality, the fragile beauty of love and life. But then most Lips albums
are about these things in some way or another. They ask big questions, and provide glorious
technicolour answers. "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" makes me cry nearly every time I hear it.
(WEA/Warner Bros. 1997)
Yes, the 4 CD one. And yes, I know you haven't got 4 CD players. You've got friends though
right? Good. Now get them to come over with their stereo and an open mind and blow them away with
this. A sonic feast. And the liner notes by Wayne are really entertaining.
3. Hit To Death In The Future Head
(WEA/Warner Bros. 1992)
Their first album on a huge budget after signing with Warner Bros. A strange decision by
Warner at the time, but if it wasn't for their financial clout it's unlikely the Lips would have
fleshed out their imaginations in sonic form as they have. So, Hit To Death... is the
sound of punk rockers going ape crazy in the studio. There are some monumental sounds on this
record, and I think it's way ahead of its time. "Felt Good To Burn" and "You Have To Be Joking"
in particular are stunning. The last album featuring Jonathan Donahue before he went on to form
4. Clouds Taste Metallic
(WEA/Warner Bros. 1995)
I read in an interview recently that Wayne's father died during the making of this record. It
made me feel really sad, but it also made me realise why the album sounds as it does. It's
pretty confused and can't really decide whether it wants to be uplifting and positive, or
melancholy and low. In some ways it's a transitional album within which Wayne takes both
directions and decides he can do both, often in the course of the same song e.g. "Bad Days".
But "Evil Will Prevail", as well as being a great tune, is pretty bleak, whereas pulling in the
other direction is "When You Smile", a bright, exciting summery tune about loving someone's
smile and the way it makes you feel. Sigh. The first Lips album I bought after first seeing them
at Phoenix Festival in 1996, and for that reason I'm especially fond of it.
5. Transmissions From The Satellite Heart
(WEA/Warner Bros. 1993)
The one that has "She Don't Use Jelly", the song that most people have heard, and helped
introduce the Lips to millions. The rest of the album isn't quite up the pure melodic rush of
"Jelly", but it's the first album to feature the genius of Steven Drozd, who's gone on to shape
all subsequent albums with his multi-instrumental talent. Like Clouds... there's plenty
of guitar chaos from short-term member Ronald Jones too.
6. In A Priest Driven Ambulance
In my opinion this is the earliest you can go with the Lips albums before the ratio of punky
guitar scuzz to decent tunes gets tedious. The whacked-out guitar sound is amped up to ten here,
but the songs are strong and it's a pretty fun rock album. Said to be Wayne's favourite, probably
because the band discovered they could write great tunes without depending on drug references in
the lyrics and turning the distortion up to full.
So that, in brief, is why I love The Flaming Lips. I hope you fall in love with them too.
P.S. As well as listening to and writing about music, I love discussing it too. If you want
to email me about The Flaming Lips then I'd love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2002 Tim Clarke