So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

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mojo filters
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So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mojo filters »

I only knew the Flaming Lips by name until recently, to be frank I never gave them a 1st listen, let alone a second. However recent discussion around this place combined with an accidental button-press on YouTube has piqued my interest.

I cannot claim to be familiar with most of their work, but I have heard several examples of both their early work and also later (post 2000ish) material.

There seems to be a skewed consensus in this place that all their work prior to "The Soft Bulletin" is golden, and all that comes after (inclusive) is not so good. I have watched many and various interviews with Wayne Coyne, some of which made me think he was a Wan Ker ... and the more recent the interview, the moreso he sounded...but I feel that's a separate topic.

Yet judging the work of this band on it's own musical merits (at least what I have gleaned from YouTube and other, better freeish sources, on top of the dubious ones) I can't help thinking any tracks from The Soft Bulletin onwards are undoubtebly and obviously the better ones, whilst songs made famous via dubious media exposure eg "She Don't Use Jelly" are at best novelty, sub-Nivarna grungy trash.

Disclaimer: I'm a massive Pink Floyd fan, though I think the Lips' cover was an ill-judged mistake.

However I hear songs from Yoshimi, Soft Bulletin and subsequent albums which to me sound impressive, as opposed to songs from previous albums which I find lacking in so many ways, but I suspect a few folk of this parish will rally around to defend!

Furthermore I find the ambitious crowd-sourced projects involving multiple people sync'd to play from cars, boom boxes and so forth, impressive in their ambition and ahead of their time, though maybe not so much in their outcome, but that's bye the bye...

Hence I invite all those who have an opinion, to express it here ... even if it's just a copy&paste from previous topics where this came up - bring it on, I'm interested!
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by niamhm »

I don`t think there is a consensus , although I understand how you could think so , a steady stream of digs and snidey remarks aimed at `the Lips` could very well give you that impression , but closer inspection reveals most of the invective to emanate from the same sources :shock: so the consensus thing doesn`t really hold up,
I like all aspects/eras really and agree that yes, generally speaking, the post S/B is stronger material to my ears , by the way which Flaming Lips track did Pink Floyd cover then? :wink:

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

They covered the entire DSOTM album. Its not very good.
The division is much the same as Spiritualized LAGWAFIS and earlier versus LAGWAFIS and onwards.
There are some of us who think the Lips were far superior when they had Ronald Jones on lead guitar. Especially the Priest Driven Ambulance, Hit To Death, Transmissions and Clouds Taste Metallic era. They were an amazing live band.
Ronald Jones left because he could not stand the drummers self destructive path of herion addiction.
The had to reinvent themselves. From Soft Bulletin onwards they became more of a quirky pop psych band with a performance art stage show. To me this covered up the lack of songs and more importantly crunching guitar that was so badly missing.
I realize I am in the minority here. Record sales prove it. So does the fact they appear on television commericals now. They are very much having the last laugh and continued success.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mojo filters »

Regardless of Steven Drozd's issues with spelling errors, I really struggle to see what was so good in any of the tracks/instrumentation during the Ronald Jones period. Maybe I just haven't heard the right ones yet - am all ears to be pointed in the the right direction.

But from my (admittedly) cursory perusal of their output in that period, I'd say he did the band a favour by leaving, as the subsequent heavily Drozd-influenced music just seems so much better.

I get that the arty inflected performances are borderline pseudo-staged to an irritating degree, yet the musical improvement is SO obvious to me as a casual listener.

To assign merit to the material that I have heard from the Ronald Jones period seems as worthwhile as polishing the proverbial turd - no matter how hard you try, it ain't gonna get better ... I stand to be corrected!

ETA having watched the Pitchfork doc on Soft Bulletin, what I admired was the scope of musical vision exhibited there; I actually prefer the Yoshimi album to Soft Bulletin, but I saw in that documentary a musical ambition the scope of which greatly surpassed the band's previous works.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

mojo filters wrote:Regardless of Steven Drozd's issues with spelling errors, I really struggle to see what was so good in any of the tracks/instrumentation during the Ronald Jones period. Maybe I just haven't heard the right ones yet - am all ears to be pointed in the the right direction.
.
That is your opinion. You are entitled to it. Music would be awfully boring if everyone agreed on everything.
For starters Ronald Jones was a shit hot guitarist.
Here are some examples. Some pre Ronald Jones with Jonathan Donahue pre Mercury Rev at the helm(guitar wise)
I will stand by my opinion and give you the following nuggets which I can really only compare to the Soft Bulletin as I completely gave up and haven't heard anything but DSOTM which just sucked.
Shine On Sweet Jesus+
Unconsciously Screamin'+
Five Stop Mother Superior Rain+
God Walks Among Us Now+
Mountain Side+
+ all with Jonathan Donahue pre Mercury Rev
Hit Me Like You Did The First Time*
Halloween On The Barbary Coast*
When Yer Twenty Two*
Moth In The Incubator*
Lightning Stikes The Postman*
* all with Ronald Jones
Actually upon further review you could see a shift coming on Clouds which I dont like all that much either.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mojo filters »

Am happy to give all your recommendations a listen, resources permitting.

Thanks for your definitive list of "good" early Lip's stuff - I'll report back when I've had a listen!
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by redcloud »

Have to agree with spzretent on this one. But, him and I are probably those "same sources" that niamhm warned you about.

Regarding where to go and what to buy from early Lips...well, I love "Oh My Gawd" but I came across it at the right time in my life. Their first album ("Hear It Is") and the previous EP are good to have for the whole picture and for a completist but it is pretty raw. "Oh My Gawd" saw a big improvement on song writing and the lengthy "One Million Billionth..." was a staple in their live set that blasted your heads and left you in the dust amongst the carnage of smoke, film projections and very loud sounds.

"Telepathic" has a brutal and awesome start to the record that is as good as anything they ever did but after those first two songs it loses momentum and becomes little surreal snippets/songs here and there. However, by "In A Priest Driven Ambulance" the band was in full throttle and the gears in motion for some of the best music of the early/mid 90's. "Hit To Death In The Future Head" and "Transmissions" followed and are also superb records. This band meant so much to me back then. Finally I found a contemporary band worthy and making music that I yearned for. Before then I was focused solely on finding new, obscure psych albums from the 60's. Between 1988-1995 or so they were the greatest American rock band (imo) that very few had ever heard of. As spzretent says, "Clouds" hinted at a change but it still has its moments and is worth owning. "Zaireeka" though really was the beginning of the end for me and I found "Soft Bulletin" disappointing. I have tried many times to like it and "Yoshmi" but it just doesn't work for me.

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by BzaInSpace »

C'mon - another thread about the relative merits of the Flaming Lips?

If only they were half as interesting as their post count here would suggest - not that I'm particularly on any side of their commercial divide, for me their entire catalogue is one of endless mediocrity and glib pocket philosophy.

Give me a minute and I'll tell you what I really think of them... :wink:
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mojo filters »

The problem for me as a newcomer was I read stuff on different threads, but nowhere was all the collective wisdom on this subject in one place - hence I started this thread.

Apologies to those who consider it simply repeating stuff from previous threads, but this was the only way I could make sense of the commentary that piqued my curiosity and came before.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

I have no problem with it at all. In fact it prompted me to give In A Priest Driven Ambulance a spin last night. So for that I am thankful. Without this thread that would not have happened.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mojo filters »

spzretent wrote:
mojo filters wrote:Regardless of Steven Drozd's issues with spelling errors, I really struggle to see what was so good in any of the tracks/instrumentation during the Ronald Jones period. Maybe I just haven't heard the right ones yet - am all ears to be pointed in the the right direction.
.
That is your opinion. You are entitled to it. Music would be awfully boring if everyone agreed on everything.
For starters Ronald Jones was a shit hot guitarist.
Here are some examples. Some pre Ronald Jones with Jonathan Donahue pre Mercury Rev at the helm(guitar wise)
I will stand by my opinion and give you the following nuggets which I can really only compare to the Soft Bulletin as I completely gave up and haven't heard anything but DSOTM which just sucked.
Shine On Sweet Jesus+ Messy, grungy but better than I expected - particularly the guitar ... Crap vox however, both front and backing; interesting use of dynamics befitting a track nearly 10 mins long
Unconsciously Screamin'+ What can you realistically do in 45 secs, but some hints of groovy guitar in there
Five Stop Mother Superior Rain+ Hints of early Mercury Rev with the acoustics, plus cool country Stonsey-vibe; nice vox in a CSN&Y style - interesting enough to inspire me to acquire "In a Priest driven ambulance" - assuming the rest of that album is of the same standard
God Walks Among Us Now+ Scratchy guitars don't excite me; heavy FX on vox likewise - maybe could be a nice song if they'd kept it cleaner, as it stands - not my cup of tea, plus the song gets worse as each and every second of it's 4.47 goes on.
Mountain Side+ (can't find it)
+ all with Jonathan Donahue pre Mercury Rev
Hit Me Like You Did The First Time* Could only find the Peel Session version; potentially interesting song spoilt by messy lo-fi audio aesthetic, but essentially sounds like a bad demo from an inexperienced grungy guitar band
Halloween On The Barbary Coast* Barrett-esque intro to a bland yet admittedly endearing song; best vox I heard so far in this exercise - to be fair this is not a bad song, the sitar-inflected guitar is worthy of note
When Yer Twenty Two* Great rhythm section, nice overall instrumentation as well as good song structure; maybe sonically it overreaches it's ambition, but that in and of itself is no bad thing ... If the production quality matched the track's ambition, it could be a good'un
Moth In The Incubator* LP version: begins like a song from the Soft Bulletin (ie sounds good) and when it kicks in the scratchy guitar really suits the song, furthermore the change in tempo works nicely to develop the track - in the words of the song "I'm getting used to it". I really like how this one builds to a crescendo! Live version: has much more of a quality I associate with their more recent work, yet it remains a very enjoyable lo-fi epic, if that's not an oxymoron?!? Regardless I fancy hearing the live album this came from - what's it called?
Lightning Stikes The Postman* Again lo-fi psychedelia, but a nice workout for the distorted guitars, and an impressive musical development as the song builds up, then comes to a lovely simple conclusion
* all with Ronald Jones
Actually upon further review you could see a shift coming on Clouds which I dont like all that much either.
Thanks! Based on my italicised response above, which albums would folks suggest I get?

I'm genuinely glad I began this thread, as in replying to the above I had a fun hour exploring music I'd not have otherwise bothered with.

My one concern is that I don't end up with the Flaming Lips like I am with BJM (after enjoying a few tunes a friend played me many years ago now, I bought Methodrone and loved it, listening to it for months. But then in my quest to get more BJM music I bought loads of their CDs cheap on eBay in a short period of time, and still have a lot that I only know the first few tracks of, as I never got the chance to listen to the whole disc(s).)

So given that Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi... are a given when it comes to what I buy next, what next? I look forward to your responses!
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

Based on your responses you will undoubtedly like all things Clouds Taste Metallic forward. Those are filled with the more well crafted and structured pop songs.
The previous records are defintely messier, noisier, and more intense.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mc »

OK. I'm one of those fans that first heard the Lips when Soft Bulletin came out. Give me a break, I was eighteen at the time and I grew up on a remote island without a CD shop. I remember reading the Zaireeka review in NME and thinking 'huh, sounds interesting, but I'll never get the chance to listen to it'. Before that came Clouds Taste Metallic, when I was fourteen and too into R.E.M, Blur and Pulp to even notice its existence.

ANYWAY.

First I bought The Soft Bulletin. From there I went backwards and bought Clouds, Transmissions and Hit To Death In The Future Head, then Yoshimi when it came out. I got Hear It Is, Oh My Gawd!!!, Telepathic Surgery and Priest-Driven Ambulance when Rykodisc reissued them some time in the mid 2000s; the first three came in that triple disc box-set with the rare stuff. Then it's been chronological since then, though I skipped buying that "Heady Fwends" nonsense.

So, what do I think?

First, I don't understand the hatred their post-Clouds material generates around here. I can completely see how people consider it inferior (I do, in part) but it's nowhere near unlistenable and in many places absolutely golden. The Soft Bulletin is a stone cold classic: I'm bored of Race For The Prize, but A Spoonful Weighs A Ton? The Spark That Bled? The Gash? Feeling Yourself Disintegrate? Man, those are INCREDIBLE songs. Yoshimi is not quite as good, but still a very good album; Fight Test, In The Morning Of The Magicians and Are You A Hypnotist??? are classic songs, and I've heard Do You Realize? at three of my friend's weddings so far. I'm not overly fond of At War With The Mystics or Embryonic, but I could never say they were -bad-, and I'm finding The Terror to be quite the grower. I hear great songs scattered all over these albums, even the lesser ones. Yes, there's no guitar noise, but that doesn't mean they're worthless.

So, mid-nineties albums: for me, the pinnacle of the Lips is In A Priest Driven Ambulance and Hit To Death In The Future Head, where the noise and melody and eccentricity combine into a sum far greater than its component parts. The guitar SCREECHING in Unconsciously Screaming and God Walks Amongst Us Now is beyond belief, and the tunes on Hit To Death... are so insanely catchy I'm going to put it on right now. I like Transmissions a lot but rarely listen to it, and Clouds is awesome but too kooky to take in very often.

Eighties albums: your mileage may vary. Me? I see them as little more than curios. Oh My Gawd!!! is the best of them for me, and although they're all interesting and likeable in their own way I rarely spin them. Too ramshackle, too unfocussed, too amateur for repeated listening, IMHO.

There is clearly a pre and post-fame split with fans of the Lips, and just like spzretent said, it's like that with Spz too. Me? It's probably a controversial opinion round these parts, but I feel both the Lips and Jason are guilty of compromising and diluting their vision/songwriting/music in recent years. I also feel that Jason is far more guilty of this than the Lips. Someone mentioned "glib pocket philosophy" in reference to Wayne's lyrics earlier; frankly, some of our Spaceman's recent lyrics would look trite and syrupy on a greetings card. He's also dulled his music down to sometimes anodyne levels compared to his earlier works. At least the Lips are still farting around with analog synths, changing their style and -trying- to push their own envelope, no matter how patchy the results might turn out to be. If the Lips are swimming in the wrong direction, Spiritualized are treading water. I don't care if that gets people's backs up, because I believe it's true. There's a lot of healthy debate about the merits of various bands on this forum, but criticising Spz often results in a virtual blackballing. That ain't healthy, in my opinion: this is PRECISELY the place where we should be debating and critically evaluating Jason's recent musical and lyrical direction.

Despite the diatribe, I prefer recent Spz to recent Lips :lol: I guess to me, Jason's first three albums set an impossibly high bar for himself, and I'm worried he isn't even trying to clear it anymore.

Now I'm on "Gingerale Afternoon" and I'm remembering just how awesome "Hit To Death In The Future Head" is. So in summary, get that album if nothing else. Then get "Priest Driven Ambulance", then if you're enjoying yourself, get everything after 1992, probably in chronological order.

Woo, stream-of-consciousness posting!

EDIT: Mojo Filters, I didn't read your most recent post before spewing out the above. Some of it might not fit your needs. Based on your responses, go for Clouds Taste Metallic onwards, then dip backwards to Hit To Death if you are so inclined.

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

mc wrote:
First, I don't understand the hatred their post-Clouds material generates around here. I can completely see how people consider it inferior (I do, in part) but it's nowhere near unlistenable and in many places absolutely golden.

.
I will give my reason and I think a few others might agree to some extent.
The Flaming Lips were a vitally important band to me. I dont really get the pre In A Priest Driven Ambulance stuff. Yes, there are some amazing tracks on those records but in total they a little too harsh for me. That out of the way The Lips, Mercury Rev, My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3/Spiritualized, Screaming Trees were like the touchstones of that era of music. Live The Lips were mindbowing. On the Transmissions tour they had the whole venue rigged up in multi colored christmas lights. As the first track, possibly One Billionth...gained steam and just as the song exlploded the whole venue lit up. No one was aware they were there. All you could see were grins everywhere.
When Soft Bulletin came out I was sent an advance and could not believe what I was hearing. I tried to get into it. I even went to some of those live shows and left feeling deflated, puzzled, upset and then angry that this is what the Lips turned into. I dont get it to this day but ultimately their record sales and expanded fan base prove otherwise. I'm sure they have no problem shedding a few of the old fans for the volume of new ones they picked up.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by runaway »

I'm not really qualified to comment on them except to say that what little I've heard has smelled strongly of wank.

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by Laz69 »

I'm very much with MC on this one, including his opinions on Spiritualized. I think Jason's latest offering is better than some of the pmore recent ones and i do have an excitement about their live shows that i feared i had lost, so i'm hoping he is at least floating in the right direction instead of treading water again.

I knew of The Flaming Lips prior to The Soft Bulletin, but TSB was the first CD of their i picked up in a sale. I was blown away by it enought for me to start to go back to all the previous albums and, although i can see there is a big change in direction with TSB, i can appreciate both sides of the band. I recall enjoying Yoshimi when it was released but its not something i have found myself going back to much nowadays. I really enjoyed the Zaireeka album (as a concept and a listen). Was never lucky enought to see them live pre-TSB so cannot comment on that, but i did enjoy the two shows i have seen by them, but i doubt i'd go rushing back to see them again.

If i'm asked about them i typically tell people to check out Clouds... and The Soft Bulletin explaining the direction they can go from there (back to the noisier, lo-fi band or forward to the more commercial, pop-driven band). They can decide for themselves where they go.

I think Jason's latest offering is better than some of the previous ones and i do have an excitement about their live shows that i feared i had lost, so i'm hoping he is at least floating in the right direction instead of treading water again.

Just my tuppence worth...

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by runcible »

I raced out and bought Soft Bulletin when it came out after hearing so much good stuff about it. I played it loads, waiting for the 'magic' to hit me. It still hasn't.

Pre that record the band were a full blown psychedelic guitar band. It just happens that full blown psychedelic guitar music is my absolute favourite kind of music. So for one of my most loved bands to just abandon it was disappointing. But the truth is I find the post SB material to be very poor and really boring. It's that simple.

I think they needed an amazing guitar player to make their music gel and in J Donahue and Ronald Jones they found it and those 2 guitarists carried the band for the period they were in the line-up. I really miss those guys.

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mc »

I'm listening to Transmissions From The Satellite Heart for the first time in ages. Yes, this is a brilliant record, and I completely agree with the love for Ronald Jones.

Runcible/spzretent, have you heard this Mercury Rev live album from 1992 (in support of Ride)?

http://shop.mercuryrev.com/releases/881 ... l-mp3.html

It's well worth the £5 or so they charge for the download. The Donahue/Grashopper guitar combo is absolutely INSANE - again, I'm completely in agreement with your love of Donahue's guitar playing. I know Ride were supposed to be awesome live as well, but after listening to this set I really can't see how any band (except Spz!) could have come on stage and not seemed weak and boring in comparison.

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

I will give it a listen as Mercury Rev are one of the above mentioned bands in my last post. They also went off in a new direction with mixed results. I thought Deserters Songs was OK, I loved he Secret Migration which apparently I im in the minority on that one, and the rest I just didn't like. But once again those first two records, Yerself Is Steam and Boces and just amazing records. Classics in my world.
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by mc »

For some reason I've just decided to listen to The Secret Migration again for the first time in many years. I utterly dismissed it on release, and I find myself not understanding why - I'm really enjoying it so far. I'm on track five now, and the first four songs are absolutely stellar - my memories of sub-Tolkein drippy nonsense are completely unfounded. "Secret For A Song" is an all-time Rev classic!

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by spzretent »

We need more converts!
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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by niamhm »

w
Last edited by niamhm on Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by davedecay »

I'm on the side of really liking them a lot. One of the happiest, balls-out fun concert I've seen, and I've been to MANY.

Not saying they are the best or most original.

I also saw the boombox experiment 'concert' at the Trocadero in Philly many moons ago; I dig wacky shit like that, too.

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/510289 ... ment.jhtml

Do You Realize? has touching lyrics that could almost make me cry, every single time.


also: found a live Mercury Rev gig, downloading now

http://livebootlegconcert.blogspot.com/ ... tival.html

Mercury Rev - Live @ Truck America Festival, New York, USA, 01-05-2010

Source: Soundboard

Setlist
01 Endlessly
02 (banter)
03 First-Time Mother's Joy (Flying cover)
04 Car Wash Hair
05 Blue Clouds (Daniel Johnston cover)
06 Tonight It Shows
07 Runaway Raindrop
08 (banter)
09 Opus 40
10 There You Are
11 Holes
12 These Days (Jackson Browne cover)
13 Isn't It A Pity
14 (encore break)
15 Goddess On A Hiway

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Re: So tell me what's wrong with the Lame Flips?

Post by jadams501 »

I like the Lips primarily from Soft Bulletin through Mystics, their unashamed pop period before their mediocre return to weirdness. As others have said, I find the Lips before then to be a little too scratchy and strange, sometimes intriguing but not enough to hold my interest. I don't think the Lips' turn to big sunny pop was a betrayal or sell-out, but Wayne Coyne getting older and changing his aesthetic for personal reasons, like his archenemy Richard Ashcroft on Urban Hymns.

I don't think Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi, or Mystics are consistent or great LPs, but they've each got excellent highlights that add up to a fantastic compilation along the line of their At The Zoo live album, which might be their best release. Along with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Is This It, and A Rush of Blood To The Head I think of Yoshimi as one of the defining "indie" records of its time.

I think the Lips decided they needed to go weird again to preserve their credibility once the likes of Pitchfork turned against them, but sadly it hasn't been inspired. There have been videos and cover albums and collaborations galore, and a few nuggets here and there, but mostly pretty gimmicky and forgettable.

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