The Flaming Lips - The only thing mystical about the new album is the overhype


OK. It has to be said. The Flaming Lips might be the most over-hyped band on the planet. Somehow, the critical acclaim that was thrust upon Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots transposed the Lips from a quirky band with a solid fan base, to a band that people freak out over.

The simple fact is the band has been releasing material that has degraded since Soft Bulletin. I was a fan of Yoshimi, and still am, but At War with the Mystics sealed the bands fate for this writer. Hipsters and critics everywhere are jumping on the band, and confusing the bands mind-boggling live show with the material they are producing. Let’s just look at the single for the new album – The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song – and try to comprehend why people like it. It sounds like it was written by the people in Kidz Bop or Smoosh. Everyone is boasting how the lyrics are a biting attack on Bush, the state of the world and suicide bombers and pure genius. The subject matter might be important, but the actual lyrics are so simplistic and repetitive, I’m not sure you can really try to pull the Wayne Coyne/scholar card.

I also hear people claim that the album is a return to the structure and style of my favorite Lips album, the Soft Bulletin. Is it really progressive to return to a critically acclaimed, seven year old album? Considering the relatively high output for the band since Yoshimi (multiple singles, sound-enhanced re-releases, and a new album) that mirrors past success is a bit sketchy for my tastes. I can’t help but laugh at how people claim the album is highlighted by the fact the Lips jump into the Pink Floyd realm. How many other bands try to wear their influences on their arms, and get dismissed relentlessly by critics? Does a 20 year career rich in experimentation give a band a "get out of jail free card" other bands don’t get, or does that make it more offensive when we have come to expect so much?

If you ignore their funny videos, or the fact Wayne sings the song with fake blood shooting everywhere, or from the comfort of a huge plastic bubble, do you really like the songs on this album? It’s not a crime to like a band strictly for their live show. I mean, would Dead or Phish fans (or even Gwar fans) ever claim the studio albums are why they enjoy the bands? Of course not, yet for some reason, people can’t separate the fun live show the Lips put on from the studio albums. People think the Lips are writing amazing songs. People scour the NET for b-sides and obscure remixes by the Postal Service.

The band has drifted into Ween territory: where the majority of the songs lose structure, make no sense, include sound effects and blips and beeps that distract from the song itself. No one is still thinking that Ween albums are relevant, so why do people give the Lips so much grace. For every good song, there are three bad ones.

I understand critics have to point out albums that are progressive and will change music, even if the importance won’t be recognized for years to come, but a revered album shouldn’t be have one or two good songs as the filler for experimentation and self-indulgence. The good songs are still good, but for every song like The Sound of Failure, you are forced to endure Free Radicals, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeah Song and The Wizard Turns On. They include lyrics like, “you’re turning into a poor man’s Donald Trump”, and rely on annoying falsettos that when done well (for example Beck) are great, but more often than not sounds hellish.

Don’t get me wrong, the Flaming Lips have done some cool stuff. The four album set – Zaireeka – is a brilliant concept and Soft Bulletin still gets heavy play in my stereo but there is no way that people should be claiming the new album is great. The song, It Overtakes Me is a perfect example. The song is a mildly catchy riff that is wasted by simply repeating “it overtakes me” in a myriad of vocally enhanced styles. Awesome… thanks. And if you did like the riff and wanted to put it on mix, too bad, because instead of transitioning into a new song, they just make two songs into one, so you have to suffer through an atmospheric breakdown and a simple acoustic instrumental riff for an additional three and a half minutes.

Haven’t Got a Clue is a disco beat that they crafted using DJ Scott La Rock’s turntable set up from the Bridge is Over BDP era. The generic laser side effects? C’maaaan. They might as well hit the fart sound effect. This is bad, but it’s even worse when you listen to the lyrics - “Every time you state your case, the more I’d like to punch your face…. I go… .

I have no problem with Lips fans. I like their work, but I can’t understand why people are suddenly so excited about them? There is enough unique, great music coming out these days to not require us to jump all over a mediocre album by a good band.


@ 1:33 AM, Thomas kicked the following game:

I think you are off base here. At first I didn't think Mystics was in the same class with Clouds Taste Metallic or Yoshimi, but seeing and hearing them perform most of the songs live made me really listen to the album again. There are some amazing songs on there.

You didn't seem to like The Wizard Turns On, but this has got to be one of the best on the album, while The Sound of Failure I would put near the bottom. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and Free Radicals might not come across too well on the album, but that is because they need to have 10,000 people singing backup. That's just the kind of music Wayne does, and when you hear them live it blows you the f$ck away. Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung is also way up on my list.

And yes, I am a Phish phan and a Deadhead. I love their studio work and it was what originally attracted me to both bands. Seeing them live is a whole different thing, as that isn't so much about the music as the whole scene and how the music reflects the scene. Both Phish and The Dead have some great studio albums (Billy Breathes and American Beauty come to mind).

I still don't think this is as good as Yoshimi, but then I don't think anything is. But it is a great album and one of their best 3 or 4.

ps - You can find a mash-up I made of The Flaming Lips, Phish and Pink Floyd here:
Phish Battles The Pink Floyd Robots

 

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