Showing posts with label the flaming lips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the flaming lips. Show all posts

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

album review: 'king's mouth' by the flaming lips

I was nearly done with The Flaming Lips.

Seriously, I was - I may have been way more forgiving to a project like The Terror than anyone should have been, but between Wayne Coyne's questionable antics, the mess of work done with Miley Cyrus that sucked, and the undercooked, badly produced mush that was Oczy Mlody that I was probably way kinder to than I should have been, I was nearly out of patience. Hell, I started my last review with the line, "when did you stop liking the Flaming Lips"!

And yet here I am, willing to give them another chance with King's Mouth, which many have described as a genuine return to form and was released on vinyl in April of this year, only now getting a digital release. And I had reason to believe this could be good - Dave Fridmann was no longer producing with the band handling the majority of it in house, and after the mess he delivered on the last Baroness album that was only going to be a plus - and as far as I can tell this is their shortest-ever full-length project. Hell, I even saw comparisons made to Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and other projects from The Flaming Lips' glory years, I had every reason to hope... so did The Flaming Lips win me back with King's Mouth?

Friday, January 20, 2017

video review: 'oczy mlody' by the flaming lips

Well, this was a real disappointment. Probably should have come down even harder... but then again, I do tend to like a lot of these textures, so take it as you will.

But next up... hmm, stay tuned!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

album review: 'oczy mlody' by the flaming lips

So here's a fun question: when did you stop liking The Flaming Lips?

A bit of a bizarre question to start things off, but if you take a look at the output of this band since the 2000s, you slowly start coming to the realization that Wayne Coyne seems to be taking steps to alienate pretty much everybody. Was in the late 90s with Zaireeka, an album designed to be played on four separate sound systems simultaneously? Was it in 2006 with At War With The Mystics, the Grammy award-winning step that tends to be regarded as a dip in quality coming after their stronger work around the turn of the millennium? Was it the 2009 dive into nightmares of Embryonic, or their full-length cover of Pink Floyd's entire The Dark Side Of The Moon the same year? Was it the massive collaboration in 2012 that called up everyone from Nick Cave and Bon Iver to Chris Martin and Kesha? Or was it The Terror, a more subtle brand of nightmare fuel in 2013 that might be one of the most bleak cuts of nihilistic existential horror ever made? Or was it the full, track-for-track cover of Sgt. Pepper's in 2014 that recruited everyone from Foxygen and Dr. Dog to Tegan And Sara and Miley Cyrus? Or was all the collaborative work they did on Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, an album for which you could make the argument is one of the worst records of the decade? Or was it their assortment of public stunts that alternated between incomprehensible and just in horrifically bad taste?

Look, the point is that intentional or not, The Flaming Lips seem to have spent this decade in particular burning whatever good will they have left with an audience that seems to be diminishing, especially when it is coming at the expense of the music. Even as someone who liked the majority of the records I described - with the exception of the Miley collaborations and the covers albums, obviously - it's been hard to work up a lot of excitement about The Flaming Lips, especially for this upcoming record. I've already said my lengthy piece about their continued work with Miley, but buzz was suggesting that those pop influences would be drizzling into their upcoming record Oczy Mlody, which might have been described as 'back-to-basics' but raised every indicator of following the Miley-influenced sound that did not flatter this group at all. Coupled with the loss of long-time drummer Kliph Scurlock, I wasn't sure what to expect with this, especially considering despite how alienating it was, I actually found The Terror pretty compelling in its monolithic darkness. But hey, I've actually stuck with The Flaming Lips for this long, so how is Oczy Mlody?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

video review: the cancellation of 'lip$ha'

It needs to be said, and given my review schedule has slowed down a little bit, I figured something should be mentioned. If you all could share this to whoever you could, I would hugely appreciate it.

special comment: cancelling 'lip$ha' was a terrible business decision

In 2013, after the release of pop star Ke$ha's second album Warrior the previous year, Wayne Coyne, the frontman of critically-acclaimed psychedelic rock act The Flaming Lips released an interesting press release, suggesting that he and Ke$ha would be collaborating on a full-length album. The album would be titled Lipsha, a portmanteau of the two acts names and would be a full blending of their styles. The response to this development was expected: some eyerolls from Flaming Lips fans who only knew Ke$ha as the singer of 'Tik Tok'; some general jubilation from Ke$ha fans anxious for new material; and some reserved interest from music critics who were intrigued by how such a collaboration would develop. It would not be the first time these two had worked together: on the Flaming Lips album The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, the opening track '2012' was a collaboration between the two acts and one that well-received by critics and fans alike. As was 'Past Lives', a song included on the deluxe edition of Warrior, co-written with songwriter Ben Folds and, once again, a favourite of fans and critics  And thus, many were waiting for the release of Lipsha with baited breath - they weren't sure if it was going to be good by any stretch of the mind, but it would certainly be interesting, given the half-insane creative impulses of both acts and yet the incredible talent to realize such visions.

That hope came to an abrupt conclusion today, as Wayne Coyne sadly informed the public at large through Twitter that 'Lipsha was no more'. And it wasn't difficult to discern what went wrong - Ke$ha and Wayne Coyne have a friendly relationship, but Ke$ha's relationship with her label was much rockier. In an interview with Rolling Stone on October 24  of this year, Ke$ha made a statement that was bound to infuriate her record label, which I will read in full. The question was, 'You don't have any creative control now?' Her response:

'Not really. What's been put out as singles have just perpetuated a particular image that may or may not be entirely accurate. I'd like to show the world other sides of my personality. I don't want to just continue putting out the same song and becoming a parody myself. I have so much more to offer than that and I can't wait till the world really gets to hear that on the radio.'

Well, one can be certain that won't be happening now, and with the cancellation of Lipsha, one can easily surmise that this was not a voluntary withdrawal by Ke$ha, but an act of coercion, a move by backing label RCA Records to attempt to assert control over her image, and more importantly her brand. The sad fact is that music only plays a secondary role in this particular story, and Lipsha is only an unfortunate casualty in an increasingly turbulent relationship between Ke$ha and her record label. However, the choices that RCA Records are making with regards to Ke$ha - who is still a bankable star with sold-out tours and an increasingly angry fanbase (and none of the anger is directed at Ke$ha) - are not just affronts to artistry and the creation of music, but a monumentally stupid business decision on behalf of the label that could potentially do far more damage than it prevents. So this Special Comment is not directed at fans of Ke$ha or The Flaming Lips - this is a message directed straight at the record executives who chose to make an absolutely boneheaded decision out of fear of loss of control - or worse. And here's why.

Monday, September 16, 2013

video review: 'mgmt' by mgmt

Yeah, I suspect that many people will likely take issue with this particular review, but I stand by it. 

Now comes the influx of country reviews - three coming up over the next few days while I work to get through Manic Street Preachers' discography in preparation for that album. Stay tuned!

album review: 'mgmt' by mgmt

You know, psychedelic rock might be one of the most frustrating genres of music I've ever encountered, at least on the level of songwriting.

Keep in mind this is speaking as a fan of psychedelic rock - as anyone who saw my Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros review can testify, I'm a sucker for 'old hippie rock' and those attempting to emulate it (even if they don't completely manage to recapture it). And bands that dive straight into the weird, acid-tinged swirl of psychedelia often create some indelible imagery and powerful songs to support it. The Flaming Lips are often the band I'll point to who have managed to capture the raw insanity that birthed psychedelic rock in the mainstream today, and one of the reasons that particular band is so damn good is that they managed to capture more than just the flash of acid hallucinations, but the fragments of deeper meaning lurking behind said illusions, which they then fused together into compelling wholes. 

But here's my big issue with the themes and bands often present in this genre: they either go for complete, uncompromising sincerity towards light or darkness (like Edward Sharpe or, if we're going over to the progressive side, acts like The Flower Kings) or they flip the script, using upbeat psychedelia to contrast with twisted, grotesque imagery or incredibly dark lyrics. It's a rictus grin, a painted smile used to conceal the horrors beneath. Instead of the acid high, it's the acid freakout. The really frustrating fact is that the majority of psychedelic rock is lodged within one of these two camps and nowhere else, with the latter growing more and more popular today in this age of increased irony and general cynicism, particularly for the hippie ideal. And as I have mentioned before, I don't respond as well to bands playing that dichotomy, because I feel a certain purity of theme is lost. Yes, psychedelic rock can plunge into darkness (The Flaming Lips proved that this year with The Terror, one of the best albums of the year and one that scares the crap out of me), but when bands seek to play the dichotomy, I can't help but lose a certain deeper connection to the material in a lot of cases, most of the time because too many of the bands seem entirely too self-satisfied with coming up with the idea.

So let's talk about MGMT, a neo-psychedelic indie rock act that amassed a certain amount of critical acclaim by playing that dichotomy very well - and yet one with which I cannot really feel a connection. Now, let me make it clear that I don't think either of their first two albums are bad (Oracular Spectacular is better than Congratulations, though), but I have a hard time truly getting invested in them because the band is very much enamored with the concept of exploring, taking upbeat melodies and delivery and fusing it with some pretty dark lyrics all things considered, with the glaring contrast being one of the grandest selling points of the album. It doesn't help that it's very clear their albums are draped of layers of irony and sarcasm which makes any shred of authenticity very hard to find in the whole experience - which I suspect is part of the point, but it really doesn't resonate with me. 

However, I'm not entirely sure that MGMT plays to their strengths as much as they should. Their first album gained a lot of press and acclaim due to their fusion of psychedelic indie rock with complex and yet catchy rhythms that had a striking amount of populist appeal - so when the band made a left turn into art rock with their second album, they alienated a lot of fans. For me, that wasn't quite the issue, as it basically felt like a less catchy, more backwards-looking version of their first album, returning frequently to the fount of late 60s and early 70s psychedelia and prog rock and not doing a lot beyond that, particularly lyrically. That being said, as a fan of progressive rock, I can say that MGMT's attempts here are well-intentioned, but more than a little overstuffed, and their better tracks are their simpler experiments.

So, with all of that in mind, did MGMT manage to make something that I found compelling on their third swing, with a self-titled album three into their career (something I always take issue with, by the way)?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

album review: 'the terror' by the flaming lips

I think I'm obliged to say this as a professional: the majority of music that is designed to be 'scary' and 'intimidating' fucking sucks.

This is another incident where the fact that I am a music critic and have heard a ton of music speaks to a disconnect with the average music listener, but I think part of it comes down to my growth of musical knowledge. As I've said before, I jumped pretty much from boy bands and Eminem straight to power/symphonic metal, thus skipping the rap rock/rap metal/thrash period that most young teenage guys go through. But really, the more I think about that, the more I'm grateful I avoided those trends, because any retrospective examination into those genres has just filled me with contempt, disgust, and revulsion. And as someone who can get back into the teenage mindset enough to tolerate even the occasional Simple Plan song, there's no goddamn excuse for the dearth of quality in this genre.

So yeah, I'll come out and say it outright: acts like Hollywood Undead and Killswitch Engage and Atreyu and Underoath and Bring Me The Horizon just plain suck. Musically, they aren't within spitting distance of quality metal and content-wise, they just bore me. Too much of this material is wrapped up in unfortunate sadomasochistic tendencies (you know, always talking about the BLOOD and the PAIN and the SUFFERING and all that nonsense), and it's very rare that any of it is all that compelling. On top of that, it's hard for me to consider any of these acts remotely 'scary' or even all that intimidating, particularly recent entries in the genre. I think most of my issues with these acts comes back to similar issues that I have with the American horror film industry, namely that there is no subtlety or pacing. In the pursuit of over-the-top 'gorn', too many acts come across as way too ridiculous to take seriously, the music of immature white boys who don't have the sophistication or patience to take in something better. The slightly better side of the genre features acts that aren't taking themselves all that seriously but are still trying to come across as 'scary', and this tends to remind me of the trashy, too-hip-for-the-room schlock otherwise known as 90s horror films. 

But either way, it's not scary to me. The obsession with gore and tits in some of this material is exploitative, but it's not compelling exploitation and it has nothing to say. I'll make an exception for some of Marilyn Manson's material because he has occasionally made some interesting albums, but even that stuff relies too much on shock imagery and the musical equivalent of a jump scare. And sure, that can be startling or revolting, but that doesn't horrify me or even come across as particularly memorable. I think some of it is desensitization, but really, outside of the occasional political polemic Marilyn Manson includes (which you tend to see more of in the industrial punk/metal scene), there's just not much there.

I think the other big problem with my retrospective examination of these genres is that I'm a fan of Eminem, who is probably the only artist I can think of who balanced being scary with being listenable. That's another issue I have with most of the modern metalcore or horrorcore acts: the overproduction stands out, making the songs appear too polished to really get under my skin. Hell, this even happened a bit with Eminem's Relapse (although I'd argue that overproduction choice was part of the point of that album, showing just how heinous and simultaneously pathetic Slim Shady really was). 

But let's ask the question why The Marshall Mathers LP, arguably the best horrorcore album ever made, works and actually does come across as genuinely scary to me, even to this day. Well, there are a number of elements that contribute here: Dr. Dre's minimalistic, grimy beats, the bleak production, the tone of menace present even on the lighter tracks, or the fact that Eminem always brings an intensity that feels genuine (one of my recurring problems with horrorcore rapper Cage, by the way). But what I think made the album work the best was the grounding of it all in real, human places. Songs like 'The Way I Am', 'Kill You', 'Stan', 'Marshall Mathers', and especially 'Kim' are creepy and unnerving not just because of the instrumentation and subject matter, but the fact that they feel like they're grounded in human emotion and come from a very real, very dark place. Eminem isn't trying to ingratiate himself to you or come across like a decent human being, he's intentionally exposing his very worst impulses to the microphone and daring you to listen. This purposeful alienation really adds an interesting concept to the rest of his career, particularly on subsequent albums, and some could read that alienation and subsequent loneliness and disillusionment with fame as founding factors for his next three albums.

But I'm getting off-track, because what the ultimate point I'm trying to make is that even today, Eminem managed to nail the elements that make music genuinely scary for me, stuff that can send a shiver down my spine. And really, no other artist who has followed him has really managed to capture that same fear.

Until now. Because The Flaming Lips, the experimental rock act known for some of the strangest and psychedelic experiments in music have just released their thirteenth studio album The Terror - and it scared the shit out of me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

album review: 'the flaming lips and heady fwends' by the flaming lips

Short version: it's incredibly weird and the mix of the psychedelic and avant-garde will throw some people off, but in terms of beautifully coherent and powerful art, you're not going to find a better album this year. Highly recommended.

Have you ever contemplated the end of the world?

It may seem like a vague, strange, almost-silly question, drenched in unfortunate implications and terrible pop culture (particularly in this year), but it's something that's fascinated the thinkers, great and small, throughout time. Everyone wonders what the end of the world would be like, what will happen to this tiny planet suspended in the galactic cosmos. Less often is the question of what one would do at the end of the world, and outside of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, a Steve Carrell/Keira Knightley movie that's currently one of my most anticipated movies of the summer, most people don't have good answers to the question. Why?

Well, perhaps because the question is loaded, because you're not only forced to contemplate your death in the question, but the chance that everything around you, everything you've ever cherished and loved, will be gone with you. No memories left behind, no fond recollections, no legacy, no... nothing. It was what Melancholia tried (and arguably failed) to capture - the possibility that everything you've ever done will amount to precisely nothing as everything you define as existence collapses and vanishes around you - ultimately, what does everything mean then?

The closest I've ever heard to capturing this vision was the prog/space metal epic from Ayreon 01011001, but that album's themes were more linked to the greater questions of human existence and the significance of life, lacking the necessary focus to truly contemplate this question in any significant detail. I'd also argue the album, while very strong, didn't quite nail down the necessary emotions to truly encapsulate what makes this question so significant. That album, loaded with bombast and intensity, didn't quite capture the little emotions, the quiet thoughts that were necessary to make the question truly resonate. Because, like it or not, not all of us have the courage or force of will to stare straight into the apocalypse with open arms.

The Flaming Lips have the courage, and with their newest album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, they probably do the most thorough and deep exploration of the question that I've ever heard, with collaborators on every track to lend additional facets to the digression.

And it's glorious.