The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The fifteen-year journey the Flaming Lips trekked until they hit their often-considered-to-be creative peak with The Soft Bulletin in 1999 was a long and arduous one. After a decade a half of creating commercially unpalatable noise rock, conducting musical parking lot experiments with car stereos and being generally abstract, The Lips were finally starting receive more and more airtime using success that had been growing slowly since 1993's Clouds Taste Metallic. Compared to Clouds Taste Metallic though, The Soft Bulletin was strikingly different, employing a more ethereal wall-of-sound technique that would become what the band would continue onwards with and become known for.
Thus enters Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the Lips' breakthrough into the new millennium and likely their most ambitious record to date. Although it does take much from its predecessor's attitudes and themes, it and The Soft Bulletin are not nearly the same. For one, it's a definite transformation from neo-psychedelia to dream pop a la Mew or Fishmans. Psychedelia is still here in spoonfuls, but the utilization on synths and other electronics is increased tenfold and with a drenching of sugary upbeat-sounding yet bittersweet melodies, The Lips are able to easily create a dense, impenetrable dreamscape. Unlike their more experimental Japanese contemporaries in Boredoms (although the album is influenced heavily by drummer Yoshimi P-We), The Lips opt for being tight-knit as opposed to being completely bonkers. That is, the staccato, machine-like nature of the instrumentation is conveyed as extremely loud and bright, yet is also extremely concisely delivered, giving for a very stark contrast between delivery and what sound is delivered. Steven Drozd's reverb-heavy electrodrums on tracks like 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1', 'Fist Test' or 'Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon' lend a sense of importance and weight equal to that of a standard kit, not to mention they're almost melodic nature in which they combine with the hypnotic guitar and the creamy bass to create an amalgam of often-times breathtaking soundscapes. 'One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21' is a perfect example of the perfect storm that comes out of this instrumental torrent and Wayne Coyne's amateurish yet delicate vocals.
One thing that the Lips are able to consistently do impeccably, even in their earliest years, is hold emotional weight. Coyne's infatuation with the beauty of life and death has weaved its way into the band's music on more than one occasion, such as with 'A Spoonful Weighs a Ton' on The Soft Bulletin or 'Can't Exist' from Oh My Gawd!!, and he doesn't stop here. The meaning of being, of loving, of existence and of living life to the fullest even with the weight of death constantly on your shoulders come straight from the innermost reaches of these men's hearts, and make Yoshimi and most other Flaming Lips records tearjerkingly heartfelt in their delivery. The bluntness of 'Do You Realize??' and 'All We Have is Now' will strum the chords of the deepest part of your soul, guaranteed.
Yoshimi may not be able to compete with what the ground The Soft Bulletin broke, but its emotional value and competently put together construction are able to turn it into an album that still transcends boundaries of what we know as psychedelic music.
Written on February 6, 2018 for Frying Pan Media
To bright tomorrows.
To bright tomorrows.