Flaming Lips

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Flaming Lips , 7/10 (EP)
Hear It Is (1986), 7/10
Oh My Gawd , 7.5/10
Telepathic Surgery , 8/10
In A Priest Driven Ambulance , 7/10
Hit To Death In The Future Head , 7/10
Transmissions From The Satellite Heart , 6/10
Clouds Taste Metallic , 6/10
Zaireeka, 6/10
The Soft Bulletin, 6.5/10
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots , 6.5/10
At War With The Mystics (2006), 5/10
Christmas On Mars (2008), 5.5/10
Embryonic (2009), 6/10
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (2012), 5/10
Terror (2013), 6/10
Oczy Mlody (2017), 4/10
King's Mouth - Music and Songs (2019), 4/10
American Head (2020), 5/10

Summary. The greatest and craziest disciples of classic Pink Floyd came out of Oklahoma: the Flaming Lips, whose art bridged the punk ethos and the hippie burlesque. Their aesthetics was in many ways derived by cartoons: shapes that were grossly naive and easily identifiable, stereotyped characters that bordered on parodies, and simplified and often implausible situations. Hear It Is (1986) was equally versatile in the comic and the tragic register. In the former, songs were essentially modeled after Syd Barrett's oblique lullabies, whereas, in the latter, ingredients included the Velvet Underground's overdosed tempos, Neil Young's guitar neurosis and Jim Morrison's melodramatic eloquence. The semiotic caldron of Oh My Gawd (1987) was a post-modernist masterpiece. The arrangements were creative to the point of being grotesque, while abrasive rock'n'roll crescendos, psychotic singalongs and transcendent dirges seemed to fuel each other to ever higher levels of unorthodoxy. Telepathic Surgery (1989) reached a demented level of stylistic collage, particularly with the monumental piece Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory. The streamlined sound of In A Priest Driven Ambulance (1990) and Hit To Death In The Future Head (1992) relied on catchy melodies and sound effects in the tradition of early Pink Floyd. Dreamy litanies and surreal ditties became typical of less and less adventurous albums: Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (1993), Clouds Taste Metallic (1995) and The Soft Bulletin (1999). The notable exception was Zaireeka (1997), a set of four discs to be played simultaneously on four different players.
Reviews. (Translation from the Italian by Nicole Zimmerman)

The music of the Flaming Lips (Wayne Coyne on guitar and vocals, Mike Ivins on bass, Richard English on drums) has been compared to the art of animated cartoons: easily recognizable, rounded forms, a plethora of stereotypes, a collection of spoofs, and a narration that proceeds towards simplification but ends in the implausible. All of which the Flaming Lips have applied to psychedelic rock according to a practice that was not that far off from the creative genius, Frank Zappa.

Fusing ideas from sources as diverse as Miles Davis, Butthole Surfers, Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Beach Boys, their sound became a repository of "signs" of the pop music culture that transcended the original neo-psychedelic thesis.

In their first discs, Coyne showed a melodramatic personality that expressed itself by borrowing the talking-blues "curse" of Lou Reed and the possessed recitation of Jim Morrison. The stellar drumming by English, a worthy successor of Keith Moon and John Bonham, was the ideal accompaniment for the vain strumming of the leader.

The debut EP (LSD, 1984), contained the disruptive and distorted My Own Planet, which made it epic, the "voodoobilly" twist in Bag Full Of Thoughts pulled by the inebriated dancing of medieval poets, and the long "trip" of Scratching The Door, which paid homage the to the first Pink Floyd; one immediately understood the anti-conformist genius and anarchy that connected their music.

The album Hear It Is (Pink Dust, 1986) contained the group's entire stylistic repertoire. She Is Death was the new and preeminent psychedelic piece in the style of the first incarnation Pink Floyd. With You introduced a genre that would be perfected and profitable ad nauseum: a form of ballad in crescendo that was a derivative of the most morbid song by the Velvet Underground and borrowed from the sleepy soliloquies of Syd Barrett. Unplugged was cleverly placed between country, rockabilly, and punk-rock forms with a tamed ferocity that, as in Just Like Before, injected abrasive rock and roll like that of the Stooges (with a riff that echoed You Really Got Me by the Kinks) and that, as in Man From Pakistan, transformed the music into a captivating and warped rebellious garage-rock. A more traditional type of style, that would soon be dropped, was used for minor but catchy tunes like Trains Brains & Rain, a drinking song that reminds listeners of the Mekons. The climax of the disc came in the long (7 minutes), melodramatic Jesus Shootin' Heroin, a sort of nightmare that borrowed from Lou Reed the pace of his agile boogie, from Neil Young the neurotic guitar and, from Jim Morrison the melodramatic recitation.

The direction of Oh My Gawd (Restless, 1987), with alternations between hard and soft moments, followed that of the previous Hear It Is. Among the beginning tracks included was the burning anthem Everything's Exploding, which united the violent noise of the Stooges with the colossal anxiety of the Animals. Then came Prescription Love, with a long instrumental introduction that sounds like the Pink Floyd of Syd Barrett at double time, and then with a refrain in the feverish rhythm of rockabilly, followed with the distorted guitar of the Cramps. In Can't Stop The Spring, a hypnotic guitar riff is obsessively repeated supporting a circus-like melody reminiscent of the Kinks. Among the latter parts of the album, however, were the first demonstrations of melodic talent by the vocalist and guitarist. There was Thanks To You, with feverish guitar reminiscent of the Who in Tommy, Can't Exist, a tender, psychedelic lullaby, and the long piano ballad of Love Yer Brain, that disintegrated near the end in deaf beats and noises. The Flaming Lips tempted fate for the first time with an extended jam, but more than just a jam, One Million Billionth Of A Millisecond, (9 minutes) was a psychodrama that crossed More by Pink Floyd and Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf. All things considered, it was the weak point of the disc, which otherwise would have been a masterpiece. The more hallucinogenic tracks (uneven, inflated, and filled with sound effects) were Maximum Dream, and above all the LCD-induced grand finale The Ceiling Is Bending. The disc was pleasing, especially to the dogmatic listeners that had turned up their noses to the silliness of Hear It Is and wanted the group to be more serious.

Telepathic Surgery (Restless, 1989), conversely, was the disc on which the personality of the group was clearly identified, a personality that until now remained floating in limbo around the sounds of the 60's. Above all, Coyne perked up and accentuated his sarcastic humor, irreverent disposition, and the animated cartoon approach (the jests of Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon and Redneck School Of Technology, worthy of Bonzo Band). Then the arsenal of gimmicks was excessively applied and the truly infinite fragments came together in the studio. Finally, the dark side of their music triumphed, that side which joined crude space-rock and savagery like that of Hawkwind and epic underground-rock (rather than pretentious rock by the Who), and precision like that of Pink Floyd. While representing their technical and compositional apex, this disc was also the most authentic expression of the outcast/rebel spirit of the band. Their creed was noticeable from the beginning in Drug Machine In Heaven, but even more so in Frying' Up, which was propelled by the riff of Born To Be Wild. The quotations took on the importance of post-modern discourses in: Right Now, which attempted to amalgamate the pulsations and screams of Interstellar Overdrive and the pulses of My Generation, and Chrome Plated Suicide, on which the skillful singer mixed 2 famous arias from Blowing In The Wind and Tommy into one refrain. The monumental Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory (only on the CD version of the disc) was one of the tracks that aspired to the title "masterpiece of the 80's". Hell's was a mosaic piece in the spirit of the 60's, of those more offensive tracks by the Fugs in Virgin Forest and early Frank Zappa.

In A Priest Driven Ambulance (Restless, 1990) assisted the group in its first changes: to the craziest trio of the decade was added the guitarist John Donahue (also in Mercury Rev), who, from the first chords played, seemed to understand the folly of his companions. English in the meantime abandoned music, tired of concerts and recording studios; his successor was Nathan Roberts. It was this disc in which the psychedelic rock of the Flaming Lips began to mature into something else, less eccentric and disorganized, more linear and compact. The beginning, Shine On Sweet Jesus, was "by the book", with furious distortions like Chrome, a hammering martial pulse and a refrain with a psychedelic beat worthy of Syd Barrett, topped off with a chorus of humorous singing both low and high like the vocal groups of the 50's. Along the lines of style of Barrett-Hitchcock, which was largely the soul of this work, Unconsciously Screamin' was the most hallucinatory track, since the spatial refrain by Coyne left room for the torrential acid discharges from the guitar. Here, as elsewhere, it was evident they were indebted to the catastrophic instrumentals by the Who. The style of Barrett was more vivid in the surreal and fairytale type ballad Rainin' Babies, marred by feedback in a celestial sound. More characteristic was the alternation between styles (the musical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) - acoustic and electric. In the first style Coyne displayed intimacy on Five Stop Mother Superior Rain, lightly touching upon Bob Dylan, the folksinger that debuted with the depressed lament of Stand In Line. Mr. Hyde comes out in God Walks Among Us, which picked up where Shine On Sweet Jesus left off with another set of tribal rhythms and maniacal injections, psychedelic refrains of filtered singing, and electric guitar charges. The characteristic effects were often head-spinning, while one must also merit the producer Dave Fridmann, who played bass for Mercury Rev. Fridmann showed off as director in the studio - unleashing a dream that few get to realize while his work of manipulation left a decisive imprint on the disc, not giving rest to the listener. Mountain Side was their instrumental enlightenment. It was less like an encyclopedia than the previous album (in the sense that the quotations were less numerous and less obvious), less conditioned by punk of 2 chords and by the junky sound of garage-rock, and always in line with the philosophy of B movie soundtracks (science fiction and horror). In A Priest Driven Ambulance suffered only due to the lack of fundamental tracks. Even if the disc was worth less than Hear It Is and Telepathic Surgery (the CD), 2 "songs about Jesus" at least, God Walks Among Us and Shine On Sweet Jesus, as well as Unconsciously Screamin' entered into the repertoire.

With the disc Hit To Death In The Future Head (Warner Brothers, 1992), which was both confused and unresolved, the group tried more than anything to be heard by a wider audience, as reflected in the more pop style tracks such as Everyone Wants To Live Forever, which was agile and aggressive like their best rock and roll tracks. However, stealing the show was the refrain, one of the catchiest of their career; Halloween On The Barbary Coast, was their counterpoint on the other side, with a more pressing guitar riff and a performance that was a bit raga. Other memorable melodies emerge in the folk-rock march of Hit It, and in the melodic sketch similar to that of the Kinks (with the surreal style of Pink Floyd) of Gingerale Afternoon. The culmination of the mannerisms of this disc was Frogs, which transformed the dazed and off-key chiming rhythm into demented chaos. The tracks were full, as usual, with humorous findings, but in general the recording was more serious and determined than in the past: these were professional songs, certainly not amateur garage-rock. A disorder prevails that was almost too composed. Just about all of the melodious tracks repeated the same pattern: they were psychedelic rhymes conducted in dry tones and fuzz grinding on the guitar, strengthened by spatial chorus' in falsetto with Baroque trumpets, and above all, spoiled by a chronic infantilism.

Complementary to those naive refrains, were the more hallucinogenic tracks, that immersed themselves in soft and languid sounds, in which one can hear the influence of the vocal harmonies by CSN&Y and in the bucolic folk of White Album (The Sun). And so the atmospheric summit of the disc was the feeble prayer embellished by dissonance that concluded the track Hold Your Head. In the Baroque style of Oh My Gawd, and far from their antagonistic sound, the creative and iconoclastic style of the other disks, Hit To Death signaled the technical (if not artistic) maturation of the group. The guitar, in particular, had never been so clear and balanced. For his part Coyne improved as a song-writer as well as a singer: as a writer who put together serious and polished text, and as a singer who resurrected the prophetic and desperate feelings of the many teenagers during the 80's by way of Westerberg. Frogs, Everyone Wants To Love Forever, and Gingerale Afternoon became instant classics.

Coyne's philosophy was that of a modern poet: alienation of the rural uneducated class, and verses of an older poet who writes of alienation of the urban educated. The group's intellectual level was well represented by the lyrics "You're fucked if you do and you're fucked if you don't", akin to a mid-western truck driver and certainly not like the intellectual snob who enjoys the photographic style of Andy Warhol. Coyne did not have much to say: life, death, love. His universe ended there. His universe wasn't a grim and sinister "nothing", but simply a deformed "circus of the absurd".

The rough times had not ended however: Roberts (recently married) was replaced by multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, and Donahue (who launched a solo career) was replaced by Ronald Jones. Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (Warner Brothers, 1993) confirmed the talent of Ivins and Coyne for composing catchy refrains and submerging them in a sea of sound effects; but this time the psychedelic was no longer a reason to put together animated cartoons, no longer a personification for surreal documentaries, but was reduced to a minimum, to a simple sound in the tradition of late Pink Floyd and also Sgt. Pepper. Frequently, Coyne took refuge in a lullaby that was dreamy and sad; such was the case in Turn It On, Superhumans, and Chewin' On The Apple Of Your Eye, with arrangements that varied from acoustic to classical. There was a pair of psychedelic demonstrations (lousy arrangements, amateur rhythms, and cascading effects) in Pilot At The Can Of God and Be My Head, which did not deviate, more or less, from the middle tone. The notable surreal jest of She Don't Use Jelly was the manual of how the Flaming Lips composed memorable songs: a rhyme, a chime, and a march (a borrowed theme, in this case specifically from the Rolling Stones You Can't Always Get What You Want). Coyne found that his dull and narcotic song book had the same power of suggestion as did Roger Waters, and that he could "sell" his trance ballads in lounges. To their fans, the boys from Oklahoma, gave 3 more gems: Moth In The Incubator, during which the chaos of the sound effects took over and unleashed a psychedelic "ride" in crescendo; the faint march of Oh My Pregnant Head, flooded with reverbs and fuzz; and the finale of Vegetable, in which Coyne plunged into another one of his catastrophic crises, but this time everything (the pace of march drums, languid wails of the acoustic guitar, fragile chimes of the xylophone, and martial distortions of the electric guitar) was truly demented.

The Flaming Lips triumphed by the painstaking care in which they arranged these tracks. This was, in effect, the Dark Side Of The Moon for the Flaming Lips, in which the group transformed a sound they forged for years by experimentation (layered quotes and noises) into a trademark.

The group had to wait months to release their next album because the classical composition of Transmissions penetrated the nervous systems of the masses, but in the end they took satisfaction in hearing their songs on popular radio. Clouds Taste Metallic (Warner Brothers, 1995) was along the same line: convoluted ballads, whispered between the dreamy and vulnerable laments by Coyne, and an extravagant array of sound effects. This was how the solemn tracks, The Abandoned Hospital Ship and They Punctured My Yolk, were created, but they had already been heard many times in the preceding discs. Every now and then (Psychiatric Explorations Of The Fetus With Needles) the group returned to the epic chord progression of the first Pink Floyd, and every now and then a rhyme with a more lively rhythm (Kim's Watermelon Gun) ushered forth from the general dullness, but the march of Bad Days (that borrowed the refrain of the 1963 hit I Will Follow Him) was given the most unlikely arrangement - only sobs. The "She Don't Use Jelly" of the disc was Brainville, a whispered country-vaudeville style chorus. The only surreal lyrics (among the protagonists there were brains, giraffes, molecules, and rifles in the form of watermelons) to be heard paid homage to the myth, but the psychedelic chaos that made them famous was gone. the Flaming Lips compensated with their ability to produce and to refine in the studio; to blend the classes. The somewhat forced burlesque style of This Here Giraffe, Christmas At The Zoo, and Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World however, had arias that were a little too distorted which denoted a very tired group.

The story of the Flaming Lips could be summarized as: the first period (the first album and Hear It Is) still in limbo with garage-rock; the explosion of a (still Baroque) psychedelic verve in Oh My Gawd; the rationalization of their ideology in post-modern songs on Surgery; Ambulance which signaled the apex of the schizophrenic crisis of the group's soul torn between the garage-rock of their beginning and the convoluted harmonies of their maturity; Hit To Death used that same schizophrenia to experiment with form; Transmissions adapted that form as dogma within the ballad style of Neil Young.

La musica dei Flaming Lips (Wayne Coyne al canto, Mike Ivins al basso, Richard English alla batteria) e` stata paragonata all'arte dei cartoni animati: forme grossolane per quanto riconoscibili, un paesaggio di stereotipi, un registro parodistico, una narrazione che procede per semplificazioni fino all'implausibile. Tutto cio` i Flaming Lips l'hanno applicato al rock psichedelico secondo una prassi che non e` poi cosi` lontana da quella del piu` creativo di tutti i freak, Frank Zappa.

Fondendo idee che provengono da fonti tanto lontane quanto Miles Davis, i Butthole Surfers, Jesus And Mary Chain e i Beach Boys, il loro sound e` diventato un calderone semiotico di "segni" della cultura musicale popolare che trascende l'originario assunto neo-psichedelico.

Nei primi dischi Coyne aveva messo in mostra una personalita` istrionica che si esprime prendendo a prestito il talking-blues "maledetto" di Lou Reed e la recitazione invasata di Jim Morrison. Il drumming galattico di English, degno erede di Keith Moon e di John Bonham, e` il corredo ideale per le schitarrate vanesie del leader.

L'EP d'esordio (LSD, 1984), con la dirompente e distorta My Own Planet a dare il passo epico, il voodoobilly distorto di Bag Full Of Thoughts a trascinare in un'ebbra danza da goliardi e il lungo "trip" di Scratching The Door ad omaggiare i primi Pink Floyd, aveva subito fatto capire il genio anticonformista e anarchico che sottendeva la loro musica.

L'album Hear It Is (Pink Dust, 1986) conteneva in nuce gia` tutto il loro repertorio. She Is Death faceva di nuovo capo alle piece psichedeliche dei primi Pink Floyd. With You inaugurava un genere che avrebbero perfezionato e sfruttato fino alla nausea: una forma di ballata in crescendo che e` un derivato delle trenodie piu` morbose dei Velvet Underground e dei soliloqui piu` sonnambuli di Syd Barrett. Unplugged collocava astutamente fra le quadriglie del country, il rockabilly e il punk-rock una ferocia addomesticata che Just Like Before iniettava nel rock'n'roll abrasivo degli Stooges (con un riff che echeggia You Really Got Me dei Kinks) e che Man From Pakistan trasformava in trascinante e perversa carica eversiva da garage-rock.
A una vena piu` "roots", tradizionale, che si sarebbe presto esaurita appartenevano invece episodi periferici ma orecchiabili come Trains Brains & Rain, inno corale da pub reminescente dei Mekons.
Il climax del disco culminava nella lunga (sette minuti), melodrammatica Jesus Shootin' Heroin, sorta di incubo eroinomane che mutua da Lou Reed il passo di boogie leggero, da Neil Young la nevrosi chitarristica e da Jim Morrison la recitazione melodrammatica.

L'andamento di Oh My Gawd (Restless, 1987), con quell'alternarsi di momenti "duri" e momenti piu` "soffici", ricalca quello del precedente Hear It Is. Fra i primi si annovera subito l'anthem bruciante Everything's Exploding, che unisce il baccano violento degli Stooges all'ansia titanica degli Animals. Poi Prescription Love (una lunga introduzione strumentale che sembra i Pink Floyd di Syd Barrett a velocita` doppia, e poi un ritornello a ritmo febbricitante di rockabilly con chitarra distorta alla Cramps). In Can't Stop The Spring un riff ipnotico di chitarra che viene ripetuto ossessivamente puntella una melodia da circo alla Kinks.
Fra i secondi invece, prime dimostrazioni del talento melodico di cantante e chitarrista, ci sono Thanks to You con chitarra febbricitante con echi degli Who di Tommy, Can't Exist, una tenera ninnananna psichedelica, e la lunga ballata pianistica Love Yer Brain che si disintegra verso la fine in colpi sordi e rumori.
I Flaming Lips tentano per la prima volta la sorte con la jam estesa, ma piu` che una jam One Million Billionth Of A Millisecond (nove minuti) e` Uno psicodramma che incrocia i Pink Floyd di More e gli Steppenwolf di Magic Carpet Ride. Tutto sommato e` il punto debole del disco, che altrimenti sarebbe un capolavoro.
I brani piu` "lisergici" (sconnessi, dilatati, pieni di effetti sonori) sono Maximum Dream e soprattutto il gran finale lisergico d The Ceiling Is Bending.
Il disco piacque soprattutto ai pedanti che avevano storto il naso davanti alla clownerie di Hear It Is e avevano auspicato una maggiore serieta`.

Telepathic Surgery (Restless, 1989), viceversa, e` il disco in cui si chiarisce definitivamente la personalita` del gruppo, finora rimasta a oscillare nel limbo degli anni '60. Innanzitutto Coyne recupera e accentua il proprio sarcastico humour, l'indole irriverente e l'approccio a cartone animato (le gag di Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon e Redneck School Of Technology, degne della Bonzo Band). Poi l'arsenale di trucchi si amplia a dismisura: sono veramente infiniti i frammenti che vengono incollati insieme in studio. Infine trionfa il lato piu` oscuro della loro arte, quello che si puo` collegare allo space-rock grezzo e selvaggio degli Hawkwind e al rock piu` underground dell'epoca piuttosto che alle magniloquenti rock opere degli Who e alle cattedrattiche suite dei Pink Floyd. Pur rappresentando il loro apice tecnico e compositivo, questo disco e` anche l'espressione piu` autentica dello spirito ribelle e sottoproletario della band. Ne fa fede fin dall'inizio Drug Machine In Heaven, ma ancor piu` Fryin' Up, propulsa dal riff di Born To Be Wild. Le citazioni assumono anzi il valore di disquisizioni post-moderne: Right Now, che riesce ad amalgamare la pulsazione e l'urlo di Interstellar Overdrive e la cadenza di My Generation, e Chrome Plated Suicide, con il cantante abilissimo nel miscelare in un unico ritornello due "arie" celebri come Blowing In The Wind e Tommy.
La monumentale Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory (presente soltanto sulla versione CD del disco) e` uno dei brani che aspira al titolo di massimo capolavoro degli anni '80. Hell's e` una suite mosaico nel vero spirito degli anni '60, quelli piu` trasgressivi dei Fugs di Virgin Forest e del primo Frank Zappa.

In A Priest Driven Ambulance (Restless, 1990) si assiste ai primi cambiamenti della formazione: al trio piu` "sballato" del decennio si aggiunge il chitarrista John Donahue (anche Mercury Rev), che fin dai primi accordi sembra capire al volo la follia dei compagni. English nel frattempo ha abbandonato la musica, stanco di concerti e studi di registrazione: al suo posto subentra Nathan Roberts. E` questo l'album in cui il rock psichedelico dei Flaming Lips comincia a mutare in qualcos'altro, meno eccentrico e disordinato, piu` lineare e compatto.
L'inizio, Shine On Sweet Jesus, e` da manuale, con quelle distorsioni furibonde alla Chrome, una cadenza martellante "cingolata" e un ritornello beat psichedelico degno di Syd Barrett, il tutto condito da un coro umoristico di voce bassa e di falsetto alla gruppi vocali degli anni '50.
Nella linea Barrett-Hitchcock, che e` l'anima di gran parte di quest'opera, Unconsciously Screamin' e` il brano piu` lisergico, sia per il ritornello spaziale di Coyne sia per le torrenziali scariche "acide" delle chitarre. Qui, come altrove, e` evidente il debito vero le code strumentali catastrofiche degli Who. Lo spettro di Barrett e` ancora piu` vivido nella ballata surreale e fiabesca Rainin' Babies, sempre scandita da fendenti di feedback ma in un tono di follia celestiale.
Sempre piu` caratteristico risulta quell'alternarsi alla Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde di suono acustico e suono elettrico. Nel primo stile Coyne sfodera l'intimismo di Five Stop Mother Superior Rain, per lambire il Bob Dylan folksinger degli esordi nel lamento depresso di Stand In Line. Mr.Hyde viene a galla in God Walks Among Us, che riprende da dove Shine On Sweet Jesus aveva lasciato con un'altra bolgia di ritmi tribali e inserti maniacali, ritornelli psichedelici di canto filtrato e scariche elettriche di chitarra.
Gli effetti chitarristici sono spesso da capogiro, e il merito e` anche del produttore Dave Fridmann, che suona il basso nei Mercury Rev. Fridmann sfoggia come "regista" in studio una fantasia scatenata come pochi e il suo lavoro di manipolazione lascia un'impronta determinante sul disco, non da` tregua all'ascoltatore. Mountain Side e` il loro satori strumentale.
Meno "enciclopedista" dei precedenti (nel senso che le citazioni sono meno numerose e meno palesi), meno condizionato dal punk da due accordi e dal garage-rock da spazzatura sonora, e pur sempre in linea con la filosofia da colonne sonore del B (fantascienza/horror), In A Priest Driven Ambulance soffre soltanto della mancanza del brano chiave. Se il disco vale meno di Hear It Is e di Telepathic Surgery (il CD), due "canzoni di Gesu'" almeno, God Walks Among Us e Shine On Sweet Jesus, nonche' Unconsciously Screamin', entreranno in repertorio.

Con Hit To Death In The Future Head (Warner Brothers, 1992), disco confuso e irrisolto, il gruppo tenta piu` che altro di farsi ascoltare da un pubblico piu` ampio, come traspare dai numeri piu` pop: Everyone Wants To Live Forever e` scattante e grintosa come i loro migliori numeri di rock and roll, ma a rubare lo show e` il ritornello, uno dei piu` orecchiabili della loro carriera; Halloween On the Barbary Coast, il suo contraltare sull'altra facciata, ha un riff di chitarra ancor piu` immediato e un andamento un po' raga. Altre melodie memorabili affiorano nella marcetta folkrock di Hit It e nel bozzetto melodico alla Kinks (con il piglio surreale dei primi Pink Floyd) di Gingerale Afternoon. Culmine del manierismo di quest'opera e` Frogs, che trasforma una filastrocca stralunata e un carillon stonato in una baraonda demenziale. I brani sono infarciti, come sempre, di "trovate" umoristiche, ma in generale il registro e` piu` serio e determinato che in passato: queste sono canzoni da grandi arene, non certo da "trip" nei sottoscala. Prevale una scompostezza troppo composta.
Quasi tutti i brani melodici ripetono la stessa struttura: sono girotondi psichedelici condotti dalle timbriche secche e dai fuzz stridenti della chitarra, rafforzati da cori spaziali in falsetto e da trombe barocche, e soprattutto viziati da un infantilismo cronico.
Fanno da contraltare a questi ritornelli naif i brani piu` "lisergici", che si immergono in un sound soffice e languido, nel quale e` possibile riconoscere l'influenza delle armonie vocali dei CSN&Y e del folk bucolico del White Album (The Sun). Cosi` il vertice atmosferico del disco e` la tenue preghiera infiorettata di dissonanze che chiude l'opera, Hold Your Head.
Nella linea del barocco di Oh My Gawd, e quindi lontano dal sound truculento, iconoclasta e creativo degli altri dischi, Hit To Death sigilla la maturazione tecnica (se non artistica) del gruppo. La chitarra, in particolare, non e` mai stata cosi` nitida e calibrata nei suoi interventi. Dal canto suo Coyne e` migliorato sia come scrittore di canzoni sia come cantante. Come scrittore riesce a mettere insieme testi molto seri e forbiti. Come cantante resuscita il registro profetico e disperato di Westerberg, nel quale tanti teenager degli anni '80 hanno lasciato il cuore. Frogs, Everyone Wants To Live Forever, Gingerale Afternoon sono i nuovi classici.

La filosofia di Coyne e` quella di un poeta moderno dell'alienazione incolta di provincia, non quella di un vecchio poeta dell'alienazione colta della metropoli. Il loro livello intellettuale e` ben rappresentato da liriche come "You're fucked if you do and you're fucked if you don't", degne di un rozzo camionista del Midwest e non certo degli intellettuali snob alla Andy Warhol. Coyne non ha molti argomenti da discutere: vita, morte, amore. Il suo universo finisce qui. Il suo universo non e` per nulla torvo e sinistro, ma semplicemente deformato in un grande circo dell'assurdo.

La fase turbolenta non e` pero` terminata: Roberts (sposatosi) viene sostituito con il multi-strumentalista Steven Drozd e Donahue (avviato a una carriera solista) con Ronald Jones. Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (Warner Brothers, 1993) conferma il talento di Ivins e Coyne per scrivere ritornelli orecchiabili e immergerli in un mare di effetti sonori; ma in questa musica la psichedelia non e` piu` un pretesto per mettere insieme dei cartoni animati, una metafora per girare dei documentari surreali, ma e` ridotta ai minimi termini, a una semplice sonorita`, nella tradizione dei primi Pink Floyd e di Sgt Pepper.
Il piu` delle volte Coyne si rifugia in una forma di cantilena trasognata e un po' malinconica; e` il caso di Turn It On, Superhumans, Chewin' On The Apple Of Your Eye, sia pur con arrangiamenti che vanno dall'acustico al classicheggiante. Un paio di fanfare psichedeliche (arrangiamenti festosi, ritmi da banda paesana, melodie beat, effetti in cascata) come Pilot At The Can Of God e Be My Head non si discostano piu` di tanto da quel tono medio. Su tutto svetta la gag surreale di She Don't Use Jelly, che e` un manuale di come i Flaming Lips compongono canzoni memorabili: una filastrocca, un carillon e una marcetta (e un tema rubato ad altri, nel caso specifico ai Rolling Stones di You Can't Always Get What You Want). Coyne ha scoperto che il suo registro melenso e narcotico ha lo stesso potere di suggestione di quello di Roger Waters, e che puo` pertanto "vendere" anche nei salotti a` la page le sue ballate-trance.
Agli intenditori i ragazzi dell'Oklahoma regalano ancora tre perle: Moth In The Incubator, la baraonda in cui gli effetti dilagano e prendono il sopravvento, scatenando una giostra psichedelica in crescendo; il deliquio marziale di Oh My Pregnant Head in un diluvio di riverberi e fuzz; e il finale di Vegetables, quando Coyne sprofonda in un'altra delle sue crisi catatoniche, ma questa volta il tutto (passo militare della batteria, languidi vagiti di chitarra acustica, fragili rintocchi di xilofono, distorsioni marziali di chitarra elettrica) e` davvero demente.

Dappertutto trionfa la cura certosina con cui questi brani sono stati arrangiati. Questo e`, in effetti, il Dark Side Of The Moon dei Flaming Lips, in cui il gruppo trasforma un sound forgiato da anni di sperimentazione (quel collage-are e stratificare citazioni e rumori) in un brevetto, un logo, un marchio di fabbrica.

DEvono attendere mesi i Flaming Lips perche' la classica compostezza di Transmissions penetrasse il sistema nervoso delle masse, ma alla fine si tolgono la soddisfazione si sentire le loro canzoni alle radio piu` commerciali. Clouds Taste Metallic (Warner Brothers, 1995) corre lungo le stesse coordinate della ballata lambiccata, bilanciata fra il lamento trasognato e vulnerabile di Coyne e un circo stravagante di effetti sonori. Nascono cosi` le solenni The Abandoned Hospital Ship e They Punctured My Yolk, ma le abbiamo gia` sentite tutte diverse volte nei dischi precedenti. Ogni tanto (Psychiatric Explorations Of The Fetus With Needles) torna a galla la progressione di accordi "astronomica" dei primi Pink Floy; ogni tanto una filastrocca a ritmo piu` vivace (Kim's Watermelon Gun) fa uscire dal torpore generale; e la marcetta di Bad Days (che ruba il ritornello a un hit del 1963, I Will Follow Him) indovina l'arrangiamento piu` improbabile; ma sono soltanto singhiozzi. La She Don't Use Jelly della situazione e` Brainville, un bislacco country-vaudeville da canticchiare in coro. I soliti testi surreali (fra i protagonisti si contano cervelli, giraffe, molecole e fucili a forma di anguria) danno lustro al mito, ma si sono ormai estinte le baraonde psichedeliche che li resero celebri. I Lips compensano con l'abilita` di produttori, di rifinitori in studio, di collagisti di classe. Il burlesque un po' forzato di This Here Giraffe, Christmas At The Zoo e Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World ha pero` l'aria un po' troppo raffazzonata e denota un gruppo molto stanco.

La parabola dei Flaming Lips puo` essere cosi` riassunta: un primo periodo (il primo album e Hear It Is) ancora nel limbo del garage-rock; l'esplosione di una verve psichedelica addirittura barocca in Oh My Gawd; la razionalizzazione di quell'ideologia nel canone postmoderno di Surgery; Ambulance segna l'apice della crisi di schizofrenia, con l'anima contesa fra il garage-rock degli inizi e le armonie lambiccate della maturita`; Hit To Death usa quella schizofrenia per sperimentare sulla forma; Transmissions adotta quella forma a dogma e la plasma nella forma-ballata di Neil Young.

Somehow the band managed to convince their label to release Zaireeka (Warner Brothers, 1997), a set of four CDs to be played simultaneously on four different CD players (never mind that nobody owns four CD players), an experiment reminiscent of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Hymnen.

Coyne is the mind behind these bizarre experiments. The next one was a concert for boom boxes, held on May 16, 1998 in London. Coyne conducted an orchestra of 40 boom boxes played by rock luminaries such as Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), Tim Gane (Stereolab), Martin Carr (Boo Radleys ), Miki Berenyi (Lush). Each boom box plays a song composed by the Flaming Lips and Coyne instructs the players on when and how to play it.

A Collection Of Songs Representing (Restless, 1999) is a compilation of their early years.

Coyne kept surprising his audience, critics and label by following up his most experimental work with a best-seller. On The Soft Bulletin (Warner Brothers, 1999) the Flaming Lips are a trio: Coyne, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd and bassist Michael Ivins. The album was born during the sessions of Zaireeka but it underwent tormented surgery to reflect a number of personal tragedies that scarred the members of the group. The resulting work is a highly sophisticated collage of sounds that thrusts drums upfront and all but eliminates guitars. The songs are the most melodic and straightforward of their career, veritable parodies of commercial pop, except that each one is a clockwork of subtly displaced arrangements. This may actually be the first album since Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks to seriously change the concept of orchestral pop. Their method has something in common with Lindsey Buckingham's eccentric and manically layered scores (Fleetwood Mac), but theirs is far more orchestral. All of Coyne's avantgarde experiments seem to converge in the vision embraced by this album.
Their postmodernist revision of orchestral pop is, inevitably, also satire, a parody of spy-movie soundtracks, Disney cartoons and sentimental musicals.
In tracks like Race For The Prize (the most radio-friendly of the lot, because it's the closest to Vaseline), Waitin' For A Superman (a close second, on account of a Beatles similarity), Buggin' (the catchiest tune, Merseybeat vocal harmonies, pounding drums), The Spiderbite Song (a tragic piano theme and a circus-like march), and Feeling Yourself Disintegrate (the most languidly psychedelic of the batch) keyboards, strings, horns and rhythm run amok and Coyne's twisted melodic talent is in full display. The trio's arrangements know no borders, and could drift much further, as hinted by the instrumentals The Observer and Sleeping On The Roof.
The opera is a better reference point for pastoral interludes such as A Spoonful Weights A Ton (velvet strings, caressing harps, celestial flutes). But the cartoon has remained, throughout the years, the Flaming Lips' favorite art. The pomp of The Gash (including a Queen-like choir) is grotesque the same way so many cartoon characters are.
"Genre overload" sinks puzzles like The Spark That Bled, which piles up sonic paraphernalia of soul, country, funk, classical music without a unifying theme.
Gone are the silly gags that made them famous after they abandoned the purely musical approach of the early years. The Flaming Lips have grown up and are returning to music for the sake of music, but with different ears. The word "collage" applies to both their early suites and to these shorter songs, but it means two different things.
Coyne the dadaistic conductor has created his own version of symphonic music, the same way Zappa did. Coyne has too many ideas and has trouble squeezing them into just one piece, so he writes songs. Now if he could only find a way to stretch them to match one of his early suites, he would become one of the century's most intriguing composers.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

In qualche modo la band è riuscita a convincere la propria etichetta a realizzare Zaireeka (Warner Brothers, 1997), un set di quattro CD da suonare contemporaneamente su quattro diversi lettori di CD (non considerando che nessuno possiede quattro lettori di CD), un esperimento che riporta alla mente Hymnen di Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Coyne è la mente che sta dietro questi bizzarri esperimenti. Il successivo è un concerto per boom boxes, che si è tenuto a Londra il 16 Maggio 1998. Coyne ha diretto un'orchestra di 40 boom boxes suonati da luminari del rock come Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), Tim Gane (Stereolab), Martin Carr (Boo Radleys ), Miki Berenyi (Lush). Ogni boom box suona un pezzo composto dai Flaming Lips e Coyne coordina i musicisti riguardo quando e come suonare il proprio brano.

A Collection Of Songs Representing (Restless, 1999) è una raccolta relativa ai loro primi anni.

In The Soft Bulletin (Warner Brothers, 1999) i Flaming Lips sono un trio: Coyne, Seven Drozd e Michael Ivins. L'album è nato durante le sessions di Zaireeka ma è poi stato sottoposto a tormentati interventi chirurgici per rispecchiare una quantità di tragedie personali che hanno segnato i membri del gruppo. Il lavoro che ne risulta è un collage di suoni estremamente sofisticato che pone le percussioni in primo piano e quasi elimina le chitarre. Le canzoni sono le più melodiche e dirette della loro carriera, genuine parodie del pop commerciale, a parte il fatto che ognuna è un perfetto meccanismo a orologeria di arrangiamenti abilmente dislocati. Questo può essere il primo vero e proprio album che tenta di cambiare il concetto di pop orchestrale dai tempi di Brian Wilson e Van Dyke Parks. Il metodo dei Flaming Lips ha qualcosa in comune con le eccentriche e maniacali partitire stratificate di Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), ma il loro modo di comporre è molto più orchestrale. Tutti gli esperimenti avanguardistici di Coyne sembrano convergere nell'intuizione contenuta in questo album.
La loro revisione postmodernista del pop orchestrale è, inevitabilmente, anche satira, una parodia delle colonne sonore dei film di spionaggio, dei cartoni animati di Disney e dei musicals sentimentali.
In brani come Race For The Prize (il più radiofonico del lotto, perchè è il più vicino a Vaseline), Waitin' For A Superman (il secondo più vicino, in relazione ad una similitudine con i Beatles), Buggin' (la melodia più orecchiabile, armonie vocali Merseybeat, batteria martellante), The Spiderbite Song (un drammatico tema per pianoforte ed una marcia tipo quelle del circo), e Feeling Yourself Disintegrate (la più languidamente psichedelica della partita) tastiere, archi, fiati e ritmo variano continuamente all'impazzata ed il contorto talento melodico di Coyne è messo pienamente in evidenza. L'intesa del trio non conosce limiti, e potrebbe lasciarsi trasportare molto più lontano, come suggerito dai brani strumentali The Observer e Sleeping On The Roof.
L'opera è un autentico punto di riferimento per gli interludi pastorali come A Spoonful Weights A Ton (archi vellutati, arpe carezzevoli, flauti celestiali). Ma lo sketch è rimasto, attraverso gli anni, la forma artistica favorita dei the Flaming Lips. La pompa di The Gash (incluso un coro simile a quello dei Queen) è grottesca proprio come lo sono molti personaggi dei cartoons.
Il "genere superfluo" si addentra in puzzles come The Spark That Bled, che ammassa un armamentario sonoro di soul, country, funk e musica classica senza un tema uniformante.
Sono sparite le sciocche gags che hanno resa famosa la band dopo che questa ha abbandonato l'approccio puramente musicale dei primi anni. I Flaming Lips sono cresciuti e stanno tornando alla musica per il piacere della musica, ma con sensibilità diversa. Il termine "collage" è indicato sia per le loro prime suites sia per queste canzoni più brevi, ma ha due significati differenti.
Coyne il direttore d'orchestra dadaista ha creato la sua propria versione della musica sinfonica, la stessa strada seguita a suo tempo da Zappa. Coyne ha troppe idee ed incontra difficoltà a concentrarle in un solo brano, così finisce con lo scrivere canzoni. Adesso se solo trovasse la maniera di dilatarle fino ad eguagliare alcune delle sue prime suites, Coyne diventerebbe uno dei più intriganti compositori del secolo.

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Warner Bros, 2002), a sci-fi concept album (ironically dedicated to Boredom's drummer), is, like, all Flaming Lips albums, a post-modernist essay. This time Coyne delves into the age of videogames. The lush, smooth, caressing sound of Soft Bulletin is applied to a different domain, but through the same distorting lenses. Given the target, it is not surprising that the songs embrace digital glitches, falsetto choruses, and restless dynamics (most restless in Yoshimi Part 2, Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell and the instrumental merry-go-round of Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon). Coyne can take any material and any premise and turn them into his trademark sound, the sound of a relaxed T.V. spectator watching the craziest show. Fight Test, Are You a Hypnotist, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots - Part 1, It's Summertime and especially Funeral In My Head are so perfectly "Flaming Lips-ian" that they seem manufactured in assembly line. On the downside, Coyne is ever closer to the mainstream pop ballad with One More Robot, Do You Realize (two more classics), All We Have Is Now, In the Morning of Magicians.

Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid (Restless, 2002) collects the first five albums and assorted rarities.

The EP Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell (Warner, 2003) features the catchy Assassination Of The Sun, the instrumental I'm A Fly In A Sunbeam and some awful dance remixes.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Battistini)

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Warner Bros, 2002), un concept album sci-fi (dedicato ironicamente alla batterista dei Boredom), e', come tutti gli album dei Flaming Lips, un saggio post-modernista. Questa volta Coyne scava nell'eta' dei videogames. Il suono sontuoso, levigato e carezzevole di Soft Bulletin e' applicato a una sfera diversa, ma attraverso le medesime lenti deformanti. Considerato l'obiettivo, non e' sorprendente che le canzoni racchiudano glitch digitali, cori in falsetto e dinamiche irrequiete (in particolare in Yoshimi Part 2, Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell e nel carosello strumentale di Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon). Coyne puo' prendere qualunque materiale, qualunque premessa e trasformarli nel suo marchio di fabbrica, il sound di un rilassato spettatore televisivo che guarda il piu' folle degli show. Fight Test, Are You a Hypnotist, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots - Part 1, It's Summertime e specialmente Funeral In My Head sono cosi' perfettamente "Flaming Lips-iane" da sembrare prodotte in una catena di montaggio. Sotto un altro aspetto, Coyne e' piu' vicino che mai alla ballata pop mainstream con One More Robot, Do You Realize (altri due classici), All We Have Is Now e In the Morning of Magicians.

Late Night Tales (Azuli, 2005) is simply a (rather lame) collection of Flaming Lips' favorite songs by other artists.

Neither the riffs nor the melodies of At War With The Mystics (Warner, 2006) are particularly exciting. During lengthy periods of faceless songs, the band sounds like a side project by Burt Bacharach or Prince (Free Radicals). Only The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and The W.A.N.D display some fire, but the verve is quickly dispelled by icy arrangements worthy of a mummy and by lyrics that couldn't be more tedious. If the goal was to make people miss Yoshimi, they succeeded.

At War With The Mystics 5.1 (Warner, 2006) contains a surround-sound version of the record, five outtakes, eight rare tracks and three videos.

The soundtrack for their first film, Christmas On Mars (Warner Bros, 2008), titled Once Beyond Hopelessness in the vinyl version, contained more interesting ideas than their previous five albums, but none of those ideas was fully developed.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da David Bonnano)

Late Night Tales (Azuli, 2005) è semplicemente una raccolta (piuttosto fiacca) delle canzoni di altri artisti amate dai Flaming Lips.

Né i riff né le melodie di At War With The Mystics (Warner, 2006) sono particolarmente eccitanti. Durante i prolissi passaggi di canzoni indistinte, la band suona come un progetto collaterale di Burt Bacharach o di Prince (Free Radicals).Solo The Year Yeah Yeah Song e The W.A.N.D mostrano un po’ di brio, ma la verve viene dispersa presto dagli arrangiamenti glaciali degni di una mummia e da testi che non potrebbero essere più tediosi. Se l’obbiettivo era di far rimpiangere Yoshimi agli ascoltatori , ci sono riusciti.

At War With The Mystics 5.1 (Warner, 2006) contiene una versione surround del disco, cinque outtakes, otto tracce rare e tre video.

La colonna sonora del loro primo film, Christmas On Mars (Warner Bros, 2008), dal titolo Once Beyond Hopelessness nel versione in vinile, contiene più idee interessanti dei loro cinque album precedenti, ma nessuna di queste idee viene sviluppata fino in fondo.

If one could remove the obnoxious filler, Embryonic (Reprise, 2009) would be one of the Flaming Lips' trickiest albums. However, given the chronic inability of the vocalist to do more than recite, and given the dearth of hummable refrains, most of the charm is due to the production and the arrangements that simply remix enough elements to create an exhilarating experience: Convinced Of The Hex blends hyper-syncopated beat, ska guitar and robotic vocals; The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine melds industrial pow-wow rhythm, oneiric vibraphone and loose guitar tones; etc. The core of the album is basically a parade of slanted rhythms, incoherent guitars and sluggish vocals (Your Bats that peaks with the seven-minute deconstructed raga Powerless. With the exception of the brief free-jazz bacchanal of Aquarius Sabotage, the booming blues-rock of Worm Mountain, and the surprising imitation of Suicide's neurotic rock'n'roll in Silver Trembling Hands, these songs don't display the slightest sign of passion. In fact, the slow-motion otherworldly elegies Evil and If and the evanescent The Ego's Last Stand (that represent the exact opposite of passion) stand out as the most intriguing moments. There are few of their trademark catchy hooks: the childish ditty I Can Be A Frog is thoroughly disposable, although the skewed, lush, anthemic Watching the Planets was indeed captivating. But the latter hardly seemed to belong to this collection of shapeless songs. (Translation by/ Tradotto da Alessio Morrone)

Se qualcuno potesse rimuovere l’odioso riempitivo, Embryonic (Reprise, 2009) sarebbe uno degli album più astuti dei Flaming Lips. Comunque, data l’incapacità cronica del cantante a far più che recitare, e data la mancanza di ritornelli canticchiabili, la maggior parte del fascino è dovuta alla produzione e agli arrangiamenti che semplicemente rimescolano abbastanza elementi per creare un’esperienza esilarante: Convinced Of The Hex mescola ritmi iper-sincopati, chitarre ska e voci robotiche; The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine fonde ritmi pow-wow industriali, vibrafono onirico e toni di chitarra liberi. Il cuore dell’album è fondamentalmente una parata di ritmi obliqui, chitarre incoerenti e vocalizzi pigri (Your Bats che raggiunge il vertice insieme ai sette minuti del raga decostruito Powerless). Con l’eccezione del breve baccanale free-jazz di Aquarius Sabotage, il dinamico blues-rock di Worm Mountain, e la sorprendente imitazione del rock ‘n’ roll nevrotico dei Suicide in Silver Trembling Hands, queste canzoni non mostrano il più sottile segno di entusiasmo. Infatti, le elegie ultraterrene in slow motion Evil ed If, e l’evanescente The Ego’s Last Stand (che rappresenta l’esatto opposto dell’entusiasmo) risultano come i momenti più interessanti. Ci sono un po’ delle loro melodie orecchiabili, loro marchio di fabbrica: la canzoncina infantile I Can Be A Frog è interamente eliminabile, benché il ritorto e sontuoso inno Watching The Planets è certamente accattivante. Ma quest’ultima difficilmente sembra appartenere a questa collezione di canzoni confuse.

The band also composed the six-hour song I Found a Star on the Ground (2011) for a stroboscope-based toy, as well as the 24-hour song 7 Skies H3 (2011), released on Halloween day as a flash drive encased in a real human skull (later released as a 50-minute 10-song album). The following year they recorded their version of King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King.

The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (2012) collects collaborations with Nick Cave, Neon Indian, Yoko Ono, Prefuse 73, Erykah Badu (wasted on a lengthy Roberta Flack cover), Biz Markie, Bon Iver, Lightning Bolt, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Ke$ha, Chris Martin of Coldplay, etc orginally released on limited-edition EPs. The highlights are the ghostly singsong I Don't Want You to Die with Chris Martin, Ashes in the Air with Bon Iver, and I'm Working at NASA on Acid with Lightning Bolt.

The word "repetitive" doesn't even close to describing Terror (Warner, 2013), the most understated and bleakest album of their career, a post-apocalyptic Pink Floyd-ian concept of sorts. Most songs are slow, frail, spaced-out chants with minimal arrangements. If you think that Look The Sun Is Rising is feeble, wait until you hear Be Free A Way, which is simply a whispered lullaby, and that is substantive compared with You Are Alone, which is not even a whisper lost in pure (electronic) atmosphere. Nonetheless, one of these psalms, Try To Explain, manages to sound touching and humane. It is, however, clearly indebted to Pink Floyd, a relationship that is even more evident in the 13-minute You Lust, opened by a clock-like effect a` la Time and by a Welcome to the Machine-like sci-fi effect. The comparison ends there, as the next ten minutes are taken up by a lifeless litany coupled with a shamanic pow-wow dance (best rhythm of this rhythm-starved album) and then implode in a Buddhist-like invocation. There is an art of how to be harrowing while being ethereal, and that art peaks with Butterfly How Long It Takes To Die: a vortex of electronic fluff, funk guitar tones, the faintest of vocals. At the other end of the spectrum is a relatively lively piece like The Terror, set in motion by a machine's pulsation and a distorted airport-like announcement, before gliding on a fast beat and celestial drones. Far from being an optimistic relapse, this song (that contains the iconic lyrics "we don't control the controls") ends in jarring dissonance and a funereal murmur. It marks the second peak of pathos of the album (with Try To Explain) and also its melodic peak. Roger Waters, not Nietzsche or Sartre, is the towering philosophical inspiration for this psychoanalytical exercise in self-depression. The biggest drawback of the concept is the lack of a "punch line": the closing song, Always There In Our Hearts is probably the lamest of the entire album, instead of being the final apotheosis or the final implosion or the final "something else". The album is unfinished for the same reason that none of the songs stand out: very deep feelings, access to a high-tech studio, but limited artistic inspiration. By now, Flaming Lips were mostly an electronic outfit, largely reliant on multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tradotto da Patrizia Contri (patrizia.contrii@gmail.com)

The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (2012), inizialmente pubblicato come EP in edizione limitata, raccoglie collaborazioni con Nick Cave, Neon Indian, Yoko Ono, Prefuse 73, Erykah Badu (sprecata in una lunga cover di Roberta Flack), Biz Markie, Bon Iver, Lightning Bolt, Jim James dei My Morning Jacket, Ke$ha, Chris Martin dei Coldplay, ecc. I pezzi più salienti sono la spettrale cantilena I Don't Want You to Die con Chris Martin, Ashes in the Air con Bon Iver, e I'm Working at NASA on Acid con Lightning Bolt.

La parola “ripetitivo” descrive a malapena l’album Terror (Warner, 2013), il loro lavoro più sottotono e cupo, una sorta di concept post-apocalittico floydiano. Quasi tutti i brani sono lenti, deboli, lisergici con arrangiamenti minimali. Se vi sembra che Look The Sun Is Rising sia fiacco, aspettate di sentire Be Free A Way, che altro non è che una ninnananna sussurrata e che risulta nondimeno solida se paragonata a You Are Alone, un lontano bisbiglio perso in un’atmosfera meramente elettronica. Tuttavia, uno di questi salmi, Try To Explain, riesce a suonare commovente e umano. Si intravede però chiaramente il debito con i Pink Floyd, ancora più palpabile nei tredici minuti di You Lust, che si apre con il ticchettio di un orologio a la Time e con un effetto fantascientifico in stile Welcome To The Machine. Il paragone si chiude qui, dato che a riempire i successivi dieci minuti c’è una smorta litania abbinata ad una danza sciamanica pow-wow (le migliori ritmiche in quest’album che del resto ne è assolutamente privo) e che implode successivamente in un’invocazione dal sapore buddista. Quella di risultare strazianti pur rimanendo eterei è un’arte che trova il suo culmine in Butterfly How Long It Takes To Die: un vortice di fuffa elettronica, chitarra dai toni funky e un cantato estremamente debole. All’estremo opposto troviamo un brano relativamente vivace come The Terror, messo in moto dalle pulsazioni di una macchina e da un distorto annuncio in stile aeroportuale, prima di passare ad un ritmo rapido e a droni celestiali. Lungi dall’essere un’ottimistica ricaduta, questo brano (che contiene l’emblematico verso “we don’t control the controls”) termina con una stridente dissonanza nonché con un funereo mormorio, segnando un picco sia di pathos (con Try To Explain) che di melodie. L’eminente ispirazione filosofica per quest’esercizio psicanalatico di auto-depressione non è Nietzsche né Sartre, ma nientemeno che Roger Waters. L’inconveniente più grande del concept sta nella mancanza di una “battuta di chiusura”: il brano finale Always There In Our Hearts è probabilmente il pezzo più noioso di tutto l’album, anziché l’apoteosi finale o l’implosione finale o quel “qualcos’altro” finale. L’album risulta perciò incompiuto per lo stesso motivo per cui nessuno dei suoi brani spicca: sentimenti molto profondi, accesso ad uno studio high-tech, ma ispirazione artistica limitata. Oramai, i Flaming Lips sono più un gruppo elettronico, dipendente in larga misura dal polistrumentista Steven Drozd.

After the EP Peace Sword (2013), the band decided to pay tribute to the Beatles' most famous album and turned it into With a Little Help From My Fwends (2014). This was a collaboration with ubiquitous and obnoxious pop singer, TV star and Hollywood actress Miley Cyrus, whose album Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz (2015) was influenced by the experience. It followed her best-selling Meet Miley Cyrus (2007), Breakout (2008), Can't Be Tamed (2010), and Bangerz (2013), and would be followed by Younger Now (2017) and She Is Coming (2019).

Lightning Strikes the Postman (Warner Bros, 2016) is an alternate mix of Clouds Taste Metallic.

Heady Nuggs Vol.II Studio Albums 2006 - 2012 is an 8-LP box-set containing At War With The Mystics, Christmas On Mars, Embryonic, The Dark Side Of The Moon and The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends.

Atlas Eets Christmas (2014) is a mostly instrumental Christmas album, another of their eccentric conceptual acts. Their career was increasingly about their antics not about the actual songs. In hindsight, most of their career can be viewed as performance art rather than music.

Unfortunately, they tried to make a real album and the result was Oczy Mlody (2017), a boring parade of cartoonish electronic music, closing with another obnoxious collaboration with Miley Cyrus, We a Family. Perhaps the album was meant as a follow-up to Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz.

The rock opera King's Mouth - Music and Songs (2019), narrated by Mick Jones of the Clash, was originally meant as the soundtrack to an art installation by Wayne Coyne.

Dead Lips (2020) was a collaboration between Los Angeles-based duo Deap Vally and two members of the Flaming Lips, vocalist Wayne Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd.

The Flaming Lips dished out another concept album or rock opera, and this time it was a tribute to Tom Petty: American Head (2020). Like all the albums of the previous decade, it felt unfinished, certainly bloated. There are three pop melodies worth of their poppier moments on The Soft Bulletin Yoshimi: Will You Return/ When You Come Down, a Pink Floyd clone, Flowers of Neptune 6, that begins like a Burt Bacharach ballad, and the melodramatic Mother Please Don't Be Sad, the most purely melodic of the lot.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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