A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

A new post! I would like to thank my old friend Robert Watt and his lovely bride Dawn Bradford for holding a wonderful matrimony celebration at the Choate Academy campus (in Wallingford) last weekend...I had a *blast* with my crew: C-Dog and Tiffany B., Bone Daddy, Prime Time and his girl Joanna, Mega, Neilalien and Charisse and of course, Slippery Slope and his fiancee Pam. I'll see all of you at Slip's and Pam's ceremony--well, hopefully sooner, but I'll definitely see you there!
I got my copy of the *brand-new* Flaming Lips record..called Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots..in keeping with the Lips' penchant for strange album titles. The good news is that they didn't fall into the trap that caught Mercury Rev (with their "All Is Dream" record last Sept.)..this isn't The Soft Bulletin--Part II, though it could easily have been. Sure, Wayne Coyne's vocals still have that "Neil Young's cousin" tone to them--that will never change, even though he can't quite hit those whiny high notes that he could ten..or even five years ago. It sounds like the Lips picked up some ideas from Looper, the Scottish electro-pop outfit led by Stuart David (formerly of Belle & Sebastian), with whom they toured extensively in 2000. The record is swathed in keyboards and drum-machine beats...Steven Drozd's thunderous "John Bonham meets Bill Ward" acoustic drumming only appears on a few tracks, like the album opener The Test and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots pt. 2. That's right..the title track has a second part...the Lips have trod down the "neo-prog" path even further, though they wouldn't say that out loud. I'd *almost* venture that "Yoshimi.." is a concept (the other doom-laden word) work--but there's nothing that ties the whole record together--really just a sequence of three tracks: One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21..Yoshimi..pt. 1 and Yoshimi...pt. 2 at the start of the album. There are some *very* Yes-like moments on "Yoshimi..", too..like the combo of acoustic guitars and droning keyboards on In The Morning Of The Magicians--Coyne even goes for a bit of a Jon Anderson falsetto vocal--if you squint your ears, it could be an out-take from Close To The Edge. Elsewhere, they come off as a Mike Oldfield/Massive Attack hybrid, with programmed beats and tubular bells ringing (Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell...a sly reference to Yes' "The Gates Of Delerium"?..O.K., that's stretching it a bit...). Are You A Hypnotist?? (gotta love those goofy song titles!) is another tune with Drozd hittin' the kit--only *he's* even drumming like a machine..much like Colm O'Coisoig's role on My Bloody Valentine's masterpiece Loveless...the human drummer becomes part of the electronics. The metronome of Drozd is contrasted with some Pink Floyd-like slide guitar and vaguely Genesis (the prog stuff--not the 80s pop stuff) keyboards and Coyne's worried-sounding vocals. Michael Ivins, the band's erstwhile bass player, is given a co-production credit and he's done a great job keeping this roving orchestra sounding tight. It's Summertime is the most "traditional"-sounding Flaming Lips tune..but even *that* is given a new sheen..on "In A Priest Driven Ambulance" or "Hit To Death In The Future Head"...there would be a wall-of-guitars and Drozd providing a beat like his *life* depended on it..their whole "psychedelic hard-core" sound blazing. On "Yoshimi...", it's slowed to perfection and supplemented with twittering bird noises made by keyboard (of course!). Do You Realize?? returns to the Mike Oldfield/Massive Attack sound, with some "as-per-usual" Coyne lyrics contemplating the strange nature of life and the inevitability of death. The album wraps up with a quiet one, called All We Have is Now (for lyrical inspiration..see "Do You Realize??") and a "sorta-quiet-but-not-so-much" one for the finale, called Appraoching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planitia)..the album's sole instrumental..owing much to Syd Barrett's Floyd and some nice brass arranging--though it's almost too short..I wished it continued a bit past it's four-minute length. I liked it overall..it lacks a little of the urgent quality of "The Soft Bulletin"..but it's a decent merger of the sci-fi aspect of some of Coyne's lyrics and the "progressive" sound they've been leaning toward since 1995's Clouds Taste Metallic and especially 1997's 4-CD set Zaireeka. Does this herald the dreaded "prog revival" everyone's been fearing (what with The Lips and a few other bands (Elbow, Super Furry Animals, The Beta Band) borrowing prog sounds for their new efforts)? No, but it's great for my ears to hear groups at least *trying* to get some different tones onto tape--besides the well-worn thwack of a snare drum head, distorted guitar amps and either slapped or picked bass strings (especially when the guitars and bass are tuned low). I don't want to dash off a bunch of superlatives--but this one will more than likely appear on my "Best Of The Year" list (see, I only used *one* supelative--not a bunch). If you want to hear the sound of a band tweaking their major-label contract--buy this album...and support The Flaming Lips if they play in your area--I've seen them twice..and they put on a kick-ass show, *plus*..they're just cool regular guys who love playing music and being in their band--no star trips with them..thanks again for another great album, Wayne, Steve and Michael!!