Saturday, February 5, 2011

Protractors+Crystals=The Shit, Whod've Guessed?

I think most people have flashes of genius; most people have great ideas. Almost all of us have those moments where we think "wouldn't it be cool if..." or "wouldn't it be funny if..." or "wouldn't it be crazy or weird or amazing if...", and we're probably right, it probably would be cool or funny or crazy, wierd, or amazing but it seems too hard or too ridiculous or too far-fetched to even try, so we don't, but Wayne Coyne does, Wayne Coyne always does. If Wayne Coyne dreams it, he does it. This alone would make it hard to have anything but respect for The Flaming Lips, but the fact that no matter how maniacally insane Wayne Coyne's ideas are, they always seem to work makes The Flaming Lips one of the greatest bands in the history of Rock n' Roll.

Last night, I listened to In a Priest Driven Ambulance for the first time in probably at least a year, and I couldn't help wondering how, if this record was released in 1990, every record since then hasn't been amazing? I mean, it's all right there; The Lips showed everyone how to make a brilliant record. Okay, so maybe it's a stretch to believe ...Ambulance should have inspired all music. Maybe expecting SWV to release It's About Ambulances, Snoop Dogg to drop Prieststyle, or Jordy's hit single to have been "Dur dur d'ĂȘtre prĂȘtre" is a bit much to ask. But there has been a lot of Rock music released over the last 2 decades, still I have yet to hear a band who has been obviously influenced by The Flaming Lips. How can this be?

It can't. It's simply not possible. I'm sure there are bands out there who have been influenced by The Flaming Lips. I'm sure I've listened to bands who have been influenced by The Flaming Lips. I'm sure I like or maybe even love bands who have been influenced by The Flaming Lips, but it's never sounded obvious that a band has been influenced by The Flaming Lips because, unlike pretty much any other band in history, it's impossible to believably replicate the sound of The Flaming Lips.

I listen to a lot of music. I love a lot of music. I can't imagine a life without The Cure. I adore Ryan Adams. I love Wilco, Joy Division, Bright Eyes, and even when Morrissey has released something bad (Smiths or solo), it's still better than 99% of everything else out there. But regardless of how unique you are, you can almost always find another band who has clearly ripped you off. Oh, I'm not saying it's as good as the original or that it's even good at all, but the attempt is unmistakable.

But The Flaming Lips, well The Lips are just too crazy. The Lips are fucking nuts. I think you have to comprehend to effectively imitate, and the only thing any of us will ever understand about The Lips is they are completely incomprehensible. You never know what Wayne Coyne's going to do. You only know that it will probably blow your mind.

Like a lot of people, the first thing I heard from The Flaming Lips was "She Don't Use Jelly". I bought Transmissions from the Satellite Heart with expectations of mild rocking with boat loads of comedy. Instead, I got a remarkably chaotic and equally brilliant record with at best an occasionally humorous moment (the lyrics for "She Don't Use Jelly" were and remain ridiculously funny, and it's hard not to crack at least a tiny smirk at the gelatinous quiver of Wayne Coyne's post-Ruthless Records voice). Transmissions... made me smile, but it was certainly nothing to laugh at. From the second I heard "Turn it On", I knew that these guys were no joke. They might have a sense of humor, but there was nothing funny about them. They were pure Rock n' fuckin' Roll, period.

But frankly, that's just who The Flaming Lips are. They are pure American Rock n' Roll to the Nth degree. Whether it's the "Replacements on acid and amphetamines" sound of the Ruthless Records albums (Hear It Is, Oh My Gawd!!!...The Flaming Lips, Telepathic Surgery, and In A Priest Driven Ambulence), the futuristic, communal lasciviousness of Hit to Death in the Future Head
(This album's always sounded dirty to me. It's probably only because of the use of the word "Porn" in "Talkin''Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)"), the intense Space-Rock of the aforementioned Transmissions..., the crunchy, chaotic sincerity of Clouds Taste Metallic, the conceptually adventurous spirit of Zaireeka (in a practical sense, Zaireeka is a bit much to handle, but you can't fault Coyne and the rest of The Lips for trying), the shimmering, silken beauty of The Soft Bulletin, the sentimental whimsy of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the sweeping disjointed grandeur of At War with the Mystics, the ultra-stylized and epically ominous Christmas on Mars, the mechanized brilliance of Embryonic, or the remarkably original yet shockingly true take on Pink Floyd's classic masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon, The Lips are calculatedly chaotic and destructively dissonant while always maintaining a symphonic ornateness; a delicate, focused, intricate, structural integrity.

The Flaming Lips are simply amazing. They have consistently managed to release the most insane music of the last three decades (that's right, they've been around for nearly 30 years...doesn't that make you feel super old?). They're music is always unique, fun, slightly unsettling (in the best possible way) and incredibly chaotic, but the brilliance of The Lips is that within that chaos are amazing songs. If you strip away all of the din and bedlam, you're fundamentally left with timeless songs played in the most irreverent way. Ultimately, this is why The Flaming Lips sound is unable to be replicated. They are simultaneously universal and antithetical. They are both experimentally sterile and classically touching. They are everything to anyone. They're science and mysticism, they are quite possibly the best American Rock n' Roll band recording today.

If you're not a Flaming Lips fan, do yourself a favor and become one, because there's no way around it, these dudes are the shit.

1 comment:

  1. It's been a while since I've listened to The Flaming Lips. I should perhaps rekindle the affair. And soon.


    P.S. I'm glad you're writing again!