“Dispatching from the Center of Hipsterville and Smelling a KING RAT with The Flaming Lips”

Really? I couldn’t believe it when I went on Wikipedia and saw how much praise The Soft Bulletin had got across the board. I’d even forgot that Pitchfork had slotted it #3 album of the 1990’s.

So I thought I’d go to Pitchfork and see what all the hullabaloo was all about, since generally to me there seems to be more substance in a little kid’s plastic toy hamburger than the average Flaming Lips song that isn’t on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots [1]. Well let’s see: Brent Dicrescenzo’s mini-blurb on the album starts with the phrase “As an aging, sarcastic man, The Flaming Lips remain my favorite contemporary group.”

Ok, first of all, this dude is an a**hole for saying they’re his “favorite contemporary group” because the ’90s, or even the mid-’00s when they might have written this, were a GREAT time for music and especially for the kind of alternative or indie that lit a fire under this publication in particular (Sebadoh, Les Savy Fav, The Dismemberment Plan in the case of ’00, The New Pornographers, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Aloha, Wolf Parade, Black Mountain and a bevy of others in the case of ’05 or whatever the retrospective-scoping later year would have been). For another thing, maybe that’s why The Flaming Lips suck so bad: there’s only one dude in the band and he happens to be aging and sarcastic. Oop, nope, that’s a dangling modifier. This dude could use a refresher on eighth grade English class.

Well, let’s see what else we unearth from this hallowed, epicentered ground of hipster pantheon. The mini-blurb closes with “That’s cultural impact… The Flaming Lips: the official soundtrack of near-fatal insect bites.” Um, not to sound insensitive, but what kind of douche bag almost dies from a spider bite? That’s called natural selection, folks. I mean I guess he’s joking around when he calls it “near-fatal.”

But I’d be lying if I asserted that any of this adds up to an assessment of this band’s subject matter as “poignant” or “gripping,” in any way, seeing as they won’t shut up about spider bites. Another thing I hate about The Flaming Lips, aside from the fact that they’re apparently congenitally incapable of wearing regular clothes, they’re so overproduced it’s funny and the song “Kim’s Watermelon Gun” is both one of their better songs and also so bad it should be regulated by the FCC [2], is that WAYNE COYNE EXHIBITS THE EXACT SAME EMOTION IN EVERY SONG. It’s as if a dog collar will shock him if he sings a single four-minute vocal fart that isn’t like some douche bag good ol’ boy falsetto on the universe’s grandeur and antipathy and his own vulnerability and gloriously erudite “sarcasm,” or faux-comedic concession before this cruel world that I suppose is supposed to pass as bona fide sarcasm.

Yeah, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a pretty good album, with “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21” being sort of like that project that the producer nods to as “ok” then to turn away and take an extra hearty pull of his Johnny Walker Black. It’s listenable. Without any question, it’s a concept album, and I just can’t help but wonder how only TWO of those songs would have been co-written by Fridmann [3] when they all exhibit a creative knack wholly lacking in the band’s back catalogue. And again, the emotion is just nauseatingly uniform across all those tracks: that melancholy concession to the universe’s sovereignty over him. Never once does he say something like “I just wanna be me”, an outtake from one of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins songs which stands head and shoulders above this band’s entire catalogue composited, or zoom in and say something amusing about everyday life like Dan Bejar’s quip of “What I really need now is ideas”. Yeah, that’s not sarcastic at all.


[1] This album of course seeing some of the songs “co-written” by venerable producer Dave Fridmann… as in all the band members went and fetched him Evian water while he wrote the songs, maybe.


[2] Listen to the song: the chorus essentially has no chord progression. It’s completely unconscionable music. It’s like these guys need to go back to elementary music class.


[3] By the way this would be the point in most bands’ careers when they were PRODUCING their own albums as well as certainly at least writing all their own songs.

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