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The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

September 7, 2006

First off guys, leave some friggin comments for christs sake. I love hearing what people think of my reviews. Even if you were to just say “they are too long” or “you ramble a lot” or something, that would really mean a lot. I know people visit here. They have to. I know how many views I get and where they are referred from. Just leave a comment and let me know how you feel about something. This is a laid back environment, and I gotta know if you guys are really alive. I get a lot of referrals from email boxes. It baffles me that anyone would ever personally refer this publication to anyone else. Let me know what’s up and what you think. Please?

There are few artists I find I can equate with Bob Dylan, not so much because Bob Dylan is the centerpost of all pop music or something like that, but because in the way that he writes music, every song is some kind of pretty gem. Not a flawless one mind you, but a pretty one anyway. I know I have explained this type of thing at some point before. Every artist has what I like to call “vintage” songs. Songs that weren’t staples of radio or anything but do the artist so much justice in exemplifying their talents and songcraft. Well, with Bob Dylan, it seems like every song he ever made was popular, and yet it is all still vintage Bob Dylan. But Bob Dylan annoys me, as much as I love him. He is a superb and almost unmatched songwriter, and yet he seems to be very close-minded nowadays when it comes to modern music. See, I respect this man a lot, but he used to be an openminded youth. While he still writes songs like an inspired pro, he has unfortunately turned into the close-minded old coot that he once fought against.

Anyway, there are very few musical artists that get close to Bob Dylan on the level of all of their songs being “vintage.” Beck probably comes the closest, which is almost a given considering he is an eclectic artist that has not only broken significant ground, but also works solo. If I flip on the radio and hear a Beck song, be it Loser, Devil’s Haircut, or Missing, I’ll think to myself, “Hell yeah! This is classic Beck.” Look through a catalog of Bob Dylans songs. You will see a pattern in the titles. Now do it with Beck and you will see some kind of odd pattern as well. The Flaming Lips get pretty close to Bob Dylan as far as these patterns go, at least I think. I haven’t heard all of The Flaming Lips’ work, but enough to know that they are a smart band who, while trying to be a little weird, concentrates on songcraft enough that almost every song is memorable. Any artist who names an album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots has to have at least a little bit of confidence. What is interesting is that almost every song on this album is vintage Flaming Lips. And I love hearing a “vintage” song from an artist. It’s refreshing.

Most of what is on Yoshimi is the sound that The Soft Bulletin tried to achieve, but with a quirkier atmosphere around it. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robot’s Pt. 1 most certainly could have been released at the time of Bulletin, but it wouldn’t be quite as fun. Here the lyrics are more straighforward and less vague, and decorated with silly and fun sound effects. Of course, all of these songs are still straightforward pop with the same accessible chords and progressions, but what differentiates this from the Lips past work is the attitude.

Each song is constructed with the utmost care and delicacy, and the result is a fun, passive but utterly confident record with catchy tunes all throughout. Lyrically, Wayne Coyne revisits the days of old and discusses topics ranging from strange ballads about a small asian girl with superior martial arts skills to life lessons like how fighting sometimes can help solve problems. And a recurring message seems to be the topic of whether or not robots could possibly have feelings, which of course has been covered before, but not quite with this much warm enthusiasm.

The best songs are the infectiously ingenious pop tunes, the most notable of which is Fight Test, combining top fourty pop rock with fun augmentations like wacky synthesizers and touches of echo. But there is also a certain amount of range here, and One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21 is a melancholy tune about the repetetive and meaningless lives of machines, while Approaching Pavonis Mons by Baloon is a mellow atmospheric instrumental to end the album. What really needs to be noted about Yoshimi is the happy almost magical approach that can be seen in every song. The aim is to obviously be moving and beautiful while covering different ground, and the outcome is a complete success. What you hear in Fight Test can also be heard in It’s Summertime and Ego Tripping At The Gates of Hell, but the songs are so different that they have their own life and personal beauty. There is really no way I can describe it without being repetitive, but trust me, the flow of the album is cool and very approachable.

The standout track here is Do You Realize??, possibly the most beautiful Lips song I have heard yet. And it is one of the best pop tunes released in years as well. Not only does it confer sage advice on how to deal with life and what the best attitude to have is, but it does so in a glowing, soaring, and gloriously important way with what sounds to me like an orchestra and shimmering guitars to boot. If there is a song to exemplify the entire album, this is it. And what the album is is vintage, that much is true, but it is all so special and touching that one can’t help but get to know this album better. It is an album that tries very hard to get close to the listener, and the attempt is not without some kind of awkward success.

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