Quick Band Bio: The Flaming Lips are a psychedelic rock and pop group from Oklahoma. When the group originally formed in 1983 it consisted of Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins and Mark Coyne, the original lead vocalist before he left the band in 1985. This left Wayne, Mark’s brother and the lead guitarist, to assume lead vocals as well. This is where the Flaming Lips of today truly started: The band began to form their reputation through the combination of a breakthrough single in “She Don’t Use Jelly”, great albums and the bizarre antics that the band performs. Within the last 2 years, the Flaming Lips have a role in the following news stories: They’ve released music in an anatomically correct chocolate heart, vinyls containing samples of the artists’ blood, a USB in gummy shaped like a fetus and a 24 hour long song shipped in real human skulls; while also mistakenly taking a grenade into an airport, posting a music video of Erykah Badu’s sister naked which lead to a feud between the artists as permission wasn’t received, and setting the Guinness World Record for most concerts played in different cities in a 24 hour period. These are good examples of why the Flaming Lips are absolutely insane, and Wayne Coyne is the most interesting musician today who’s still releasing music.
These stories could scare someone away from listening to The Flaming Lips, but the truth is that the band actually makes very accessible music. A lot of thought goes into their releases, and they deserve a lot of credit for creating albums around completely developed ideas. Oddly though, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots isn’t the best example to use for this as Coyne has stated that this album really just seemed to come together as a story after they started creating the songs. How they got tied together into the story is still wildly entertaining though, as Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots presents the listener with a Japanese girl who is the only hope of saving her people by defeating the evil robots that have arrived, and this ends up being a terrific setting for the Flaming Lips’ bouncing guitars and philosophical lyrics to capture your imagination.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots begins with my favorite track on the album, “Flight Test”, which clues you in on what to expect from the band’s unique sound. The bouncing guitars come into play immediately, and after a robot voice declares that the test has begun the first voice that you can hear hidden in the background introduces the listener to “pop star, Wayne Coyne!” It’s an odd statement to hear as a listener, seemingly both valid and absurd. “Flight Test” is where the story begins, as Coyne tells the story of a man who fell in love and at first assumed that fate would work it out for him if he just kept acting like himself. As the track progresses though this mindset changes, and he grows to realize to late that there are moments in the process where you have to take action if you want to reach that outcome, moments that he’s already missed. Just where this happens is the confusing portion alluded to during the songs chorus of “I don’t know where the sun beams end/and where the star lights begin/It’s all a mystery/And I don’t know how a man decides/what’s right for his own life/It’s all a mystery”. This view of love, but a non-traditional sense of it is also captured in the very well known Flaming Lips song that appears on this album “Do You Realize??”. The part of this song that always gets listened to is the sweet part that everyone longs to hear, “Do you realize/That you have..the most..beautiful face”. But the song is a love song in a very non-romantic way, as the previous line gets juxtaposed with phrases asking you if you realize that we’re floating in space, your happiness makes you cry, and everyone you know someday will die. There are statements of facts that ask you to not view the world in a storybook way, but to embrace the reality of what we have to deal with and find the beauty that people are desperately seeking without having to deceive ourselves.
Yoshimi stand out as a Flaming Lips album because it balances fun, energy packed tracks like the previously mentioned two and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” with tracks that are slower and more philosophically centered like “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21” and “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell”. It’s an inspirational album because it’s presented so well, while highlighting the qualities that make this band awesome in the first place. The album is often viewed as a concept album because of the continuing storyline of Yoshimi battling the Robots, and some Flaming Lips fans believe the album actually tells the story of a woman battling breast cancer. It’s viewed today as one of the two defining albums released by the band along with The Soft Bulletin, and has recently been turned into a play featuring every track on the album.
Track Picks: Flight Test, Do You Realize??, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1