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they're just humans with wives and children

 

the Flaming Lips

 

The second-best band to come from Oklahoma. Hanson, of course, are the best.

lineup: Wayne Coyne (vocals, guitar); Steven Drozd (drums); Mike Ivins (bass); occasionally helped by some guy named Ronald (guitar on Transmissions and Clouds) and Jonathan Donahue (guitar on Priest Driven and Hit to Death).

review index: Hear It Is / Telepathic Surgery / Hit to Death in the Future Head / Transmissions from the Satellite Heart / Clouds Taste Metallic / The Soft Bulletin / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

solos & sides: Deserter's Songs (Mercury Rev) / All is Dream (Mercury Rev)

missing albums: Oh My Gawd!, In a Priest Driven Ambulance, Zaireeka

apex: The Soft Bulletin
nadir: Telepathic Surgery
overlooked: Clouds Taste Metallic (well, they all are, but this one in particular)


Hear It Is - 1986

Rating: ***
Best songs: With You, Godzilla Flick, Jesus Shootin' Heroin
Worst songs: ehh...

 

Kind of an inauspicious beginning, if I may use a word the meaning of which I am not sure. See, bands don't just come together and go "shazam!" and they create classic albums. They gotta work at it. And these guys really had to work at it. There's nothing really bad on this album, but the album kind of rides a wave of mediocrity for the most part. A few highlights include the dynamically-charged album opener "With You", the blasphemous epic "Jesus Shootin' Heroin", and the quiet, pensive "Godzilla Flick".

Yeah, quiet and pensive. Really.

"Unplugged" and "Trains Brains and Rain" rock along nicely, and the ending cover of "Summertime Blues" features a hilariously over-wrought ending, but all the stuff in the middle is just "ehhhhhhhhh". Y'know, "uhhhh, mmmm, nnnnnhhhnnnn!". Well, maybe not that much. But it sure as heck ain't no Strokes album.


Telepathic Surgery - 1989

Rating: **
Best songs: Drug Machine in Heaven, Begs and Achin', Chrome-Plated Suicide, The Spontaneous Combustion of John
Worst songs: Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory, UFO Story

 

Telepathic Surgery? More like Telepathic DENTISTRY!

But seriously folks, this ain't very good. The album begins with a cool riff-rocker, "Drug Machine in Heaven", and ends with a silly bit of wordplay, "Begs and Achin'", but most of the stuff in the middle sucks. When the album's highlights include a bass solo and a song that's only 53 seconds long, u know u gotz problem!!!!!11

Er, sorry. Anyway, what sucks so badly about this album? Well, there's a TWENTY-THREE MINUTE LONG stoner jam thingy. It's neat for a few minutes, but geez, do you really want to listen to this for over 1/3 of an hour? There's also "UFO Story", which goes from stupid in-concert story to noise jam to pretty repetative piano part. And quite a bit of the album is just dull, tuneless riffing.

I like the cover art, though.


Hit to Death in the Future Head - 1992

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Talkin' 'Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues, The Sun, Frogs, You Have to be Joking
Worst songs: Felt Good to Burn

 

For some reason, this album was impossible for me to review. FOR THREE WEEKS!!! So I'm just gonna tell you three facts about this album:

1. it's their first on a major label,

2. the production is swamped in a dull haze of instrumentation,

3. the songs are finally really good (except for that awful "Felt Good to Burn" one).

After all, if you like the Lips, you'll pick this one up anyway. I did, thanks to eBay. Tee hee, I'm such a great writer.


Transmissions from the Satellite Heart - 1993

Rating: ****
Best songs: Turn It On, Chewin' on the Apple of Your Eye, Be My Head, Slow*Nerve*Action
Worst songs: that song from "Cool Hand Luke"

 

Thanks to the popularity of the masturbation ode "She Don't Use Jelly", the Lips were pushed into minor stardom, featuring a guest appearance on, er, Beverly Hills, 90210.

No, really. You think I'd make something like that up?

Anyway, guitarist Jonathan Donahue left to form Mercury Rev, and the production is much less cluttered compared to the previous disque. Mostly catchy pop ditties such as the two big smash hits "Turn It On" and "She Don't Use Jelly". Only a couple songs on here are a drag: that song from "Cool Hand Luke" which is denoted by a grouping of asterisks. I'm not going to type them out, because that might confuse you, dear reader, who are used to asterisks denoting my rating for the album. Also, no matter how hard I try, I can never remember how "Superhumans" goes.

But the rest is pretty cool. There are some noisy rock guitar noises in "Pilot Can at the Queer of God", amd (processor) "Chewin' on the Apple of Your Eye" is a pretty acoustic ditty. The rest you can discover for yourself.


Clouds Taste Metallic - 1995

Rating: ****1/2
Best songs: The Abandoned Hospital Ship, Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World, Brainville, They Punctured My Yolk
Worst songs: none

 

Pretty much in the same artery as the last album. If you like that one you'll like this one. If you like this one you'll like that one. Simply put, sí?


The Soft Bulletin - 1999

Rating: *****
Best songs: Race for the Prize, A Spoonful Weighs a Ton, Waiting for a Superman, Suddenly Everything Has Changed
Worst songs: The Spiderbite Song

 

This album fucking rocks.

No, that's not all, you always bitch at me when I just scribe a few words. I love orchestral pop. That is what this album is, except the "orchestral" part is fake. It's just a bunch of synthesizers. Is that so wrong? The Flaming Lips aren't a rich band -- do you think they really have the money to hire string sections and woodwind players and whatnot?

Regardless, this is about the best faking of orchestral sounds I've ever heard. Check out those flutes and clarinets and whatnot in "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton"! The harp glissandi in "Race for the Prize"! The other sounds throughout the album!

I don't have much else to say about this record, other than "The Gash" sounds like "Nights in White Satin" on some non-pharmecutical drug. Buy it! You'll hate it!


Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots - 2002

Rating: ***
Best songs: One More Robot, Do You Realize?, In the Morning of Magicians
Worst songs: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2, Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon, It's Summertime

 

Oh...dear. I guess producer Dave Fridmann bought the "Techno" expansion board for his Generic Modern Synthesizer. This album is liberally splashed with bloopy, buzzy keyboard noises that are like, so 1997. No more fake orchestras, now it's uh...fake electronics? And lame songs. Why do we need these instrumentals? "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2" is just annoying, and the ending one is completely forgettable. There's a bunch of mediocre songs on here too. "One More Robot" is good. Most of the rest is just...okay (this is the Flaming Lips, they can't do bad). The lyrics are crap. I really don't know what to say. It's all so generic-sounding. I guess they put too much energy in that Christmas movie.


Postscript: Solo Albums and Side Projects

Mercury Rev was formed by Jonathan Donahue, who was in the Flaming Lips for a short period. It's like Baconization!


Mercury Rev, Deserter's Songs - 1998

Rating: ****
Best songs: Holes, Goddess on a Hiway, Opus 40, Tonite It Shows
Worst songs: I Collect Coins

 

As I mentioned earlier in our program, Jonathan Donahue left the Flaming Lips following their mega success Hit to Death in the Future Head to form his own band, named Mercury Rev. And vat ze hell iz zis? It's just like The Soft Bulletin! Lush pop tunes with a high-pitched singer!

Okay, I'm sure you're sick of me saying what songs I like and don't like. Here's something else to think about: "Opus 40" features Levon Helm (of the Band, for those of you not in the know) on drums. Why? Who knows! There's also a singing saw on one song. A SINGING SAW! How can you not like a singing saw? Huh? Huh?

I knew you didn't have an answer. "Goddess on a Hiway" is catchy as frig, and "Holes" is a gorgeous album opener. The only problem with this one is it doesn't blow me away like Bulletin does. And there's a dull instrumental too.

Discographical note: Mercury Rev has released four other albums: 2001 saw the followup to this one (entitled All is Dream), which I haven't heard but plan on getting, and there's three before this one which I haven't heard either, but don't plan to get anytime soon.


Mercury Rev, All is Dream - 2001

Rating: ***
Best songs: Hercules, The Dark is Rising, Tides of the Moon
Worst songs: Lincoln's Eyes et all

 

Huh? This is the exact same goddamned album as Deserter's Songs! Same exact atmosphere (though a little darker this time), same instrumentation (thanks a whole lot, Dave Fridmann), just missing the incredifreakinbly great songwriting. The opening and closing songs are awesome, and there's a couple good tunes in the middle ("Nite and Fog" has a neat bassline, and "Tides of the Moon" is gentle and pretty, like a backhoe), but most of this is just painfully average. Listenable, but unwonderful. I'm disappointed in you, Jonathan Donahue! And you, Grasshopper! And you, other guy!


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