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TAKE A DIVE INTO THE FLAMING LIPS’ SALAD DAYS WITH ‘SEEING THE UNSEEABLE’

READ MORE: PopMatters

By CHRIS INGALLS
08 Aug 2018

It can be difficult to fathom the fact that the Flaming Lips have been together in some form or another for 35 years. And while the consistent thread throughout the band's discography has been a unique strain of "weirdness", it's also breathtaking to take in their evolution over the course of 14 studio albums and various projects and collaborations.

But before the band of oddballs from Norman, Oklahoma became the de facto indie experimental freaks the world knows and loves, there was an early, rawer, more direct sound to their music. That's where Seeing the Unseeable: The Complete Studio Recordings of the Flaming Lips, 1986-1990 comes in. A collection of their first four full-length studio albums in addition to two discs of rarities from that period, Seeing the Unseeable is the Flaming Lips in all their nascent, punk rock, salad-day glory. Before the freak pop hit that landed them on Beverly Hills, 90210, before singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne's rumpled white suit, before the boom-box experimentalism of Zaireeka, before the head-scratching Miley Cyrus collaborations, the Lips were signed to Restless Records and recorded a string of rough, strange, aggressive music at the tail end of the 1980s.

Released in 1986 - two years after their self-titled debut EP and following the departure of Wayne's brother Mark - Hear It Is shows relatively little of the sound that the Flaming Lips would pursue on later albums. At this point, the band consists of Coyne, bassist Michael Ivins, and drummer Richard English. Opening track "With You" alternates between the acoustic folk of the verses and the pummeling electric crush of the choruses. Elsewhere, the band seems to adopt a sound that is freakishly close to that of the Replacements, largely because Coyne's vocals were a dead ringer for Paul Westerberg.


The 'Mats comparison carries over to the music as well, to some degree. While rough-hewn guitars and a bash-it-out, DIY aesthetic hovers over all ten tracks on Hear It Is, there are glimpses of greater ambition. "Jesus Shootin' Heroin" doesn't just kick off the band's penchant for knocking over the sacred cows of Christianity; musically, it owes more to Black Sabbath than Bob Stinson with its doom-metal guitar chords and almost Gothic tone. Additionally, "Godzilla Flick" combines a whimsical pop culture touchstone with breezy acoustic guitar and an almost anthemic sense of musical richness. Hear It Is has plenty of punk elements, but the Lips were already looking further over the horizon.

The pieces continue falling into place on the follow-up, 1987's Oh My Gawd!!! Sure, the hyperactive "Everything's Exploding" follows the standard guitar-heavy college rock playbook, but the psychedelics soon kick in with "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning", arguably their first "epic" track, where rambling electric guitar-led balladry collapses into slashing rock riffage, sounding like an early Pink Floyd jam session. There's also the impossible-to-grasp utter insanity of songs like "Maximum Dream for Evil Knievel", where Coyne's acid trips seem to take on a life of their own as stop-start guitar figures suggest a penchant for progressive rock. Oh My Gawd, indeed.


Photo: George Salisbury / Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records

As Seeing the Unseeable progresses, the Flaming Lips begin inching closer and closer to the sound they were to perfect in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Telepathic Surgery seems to bear this out to a fairly excessive degree. Initially conceived as a 30-minute sound collage, a "standard" (relatively speaking, of course) album was eventually created, with a somewhat rough concept at play, spread across 14 tracks. These tracks include everything from tiny snippets like "Michael, Time to Wake Up" (an atonal electric guitar freakout) and "The Spontaneous Combustion of John" (a brief blip of dark folk) to the epic, 23-minute experimentalism of "Hell's Angels Cracker Factory", which includes twin-attack distorted guitar riffs, odd , Zappa-esque horn outbursts, manic, thundering drum fills and bits of operatic vocalizing. "Chrome Plated Suicide" is one of Telepathic Surgery's high points and also an important step in the band's evolution as the cracked power ballad – melodically cribbed from "Sweet Child o'Mine" – introduces Coyne's now-famous strained, Neil-Young-on-acid vocal style.

In a Priest Driven Ambulance, released in 1990, is the final album the Flaming Lips made for Restless Records, and it also marks the first major line-up shifts since Mark Coyne's departure. Drummer English is out, replaced by Nathan Roberts, and guitarist Jonathan Donahue – who would also helm indie darlings Mercury Rev – gives the band additional texture. At this point, Coyne is totally committed to that out-of-tune nasal holler, and on "Shine on Sweet Jesus", the band uses standard power pop chord structures as a foundation for a noisy, distorted sonic mess. It's as if they realize that nobody cares how unhinged they sound, so they go for it. But there's nothing really "forbidden" about the sound. It's a celebration, and everyone's invited. Donahue's presence underscores the heavier sounds of "Unconsciously Screamin'" and the spacey guitar fills of "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain". For good measure, they even close the album with a typically trippy take on "(What a) Wonderful World".


Seeing the Unseeable is rounded out by two additional discs of recordings from the same era. Restless Rarities includes an interesting collection of covers: an occasionally tender, occasionally head-banging take on Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush", a live version of Sonic Youth's "Death Valley '69", and a medley of the Sonics' garage band nugget and Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love and Understanding". The choice of covers ranges from bold to somewhat predictable, but the gusto with which the Flaming Lips attack these songs is remarkably consistent. Alternate versions of "Stand in Line" and "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain" and a Sub-Pop 7" version of "Drug Machine in Heaven" are some other highlights of Restless Rarities.

The sixth disc in the collection isn't really an unearthed treasure unknown to hardcore Lips enthusiasts – in fact, The Mushroom Tapes was first released in 2002 as the second disc of the deluxe reissue of In a Priest Driven Ambulance (then titled The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg), essentially a collection of Priest-era demos. It's a treat to hear some of these songs in their early stages, and additional songs that didn't make the final cut are also included, like the brief, self-explanatory "Jam" and "God's a Wheeler Dealer", a truly bizarre number in which noise effects and guitar feedback compete for attention with Coyne's vocals.

Soon after the release of In a Priest Driven Ambulance, the Flaming Lips caught the attention of Warner Brothers, who signed them and released their major-label debut, Hit to Death in the Future Head. Then came Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, which included the ubiquitous freak hit "She Don't Use Jelly". Once multi-instrumentalist and resident musical wizard Steven Drozd joined the lineup, it was only a matter of time before they cranked out albums like Zaireeka (a four-disc set meant to be played simultaneously on four CD players) and the Pet-Sounds-on-harder-drugs masterpiece The Soft Bulletin, gaining fame and notoriety by simply making strange music completely on their own terms. Seeing the Unseeable is an expansive look into the early days of the Flaming Lips, when they left it all on the field, and it all paid off.

posted by derek brown - Aug 8, 2018 - 0 comments

THE FLAMING LIPS’ WAYNE COYNE EMBRACES BEING A ‘CREATIVE WEIRDO’

READ MORE: Huffington Post

Thirty-five years into his career, the frontman talks longevity and what makes him tick.

By Lauren Moraski

Wayne Coyne was at a ski shop once in Aspen, Colorado, when he heard a batch of Flaming Lips songs.

“I assumed that the people getting us the skis and all that, one of them must’ve been a Flaming Lips fan and thought, ‘How fun is it going to be? I’ll put on the Spotify playlist while they’re in the store,’” the Flaming Lips singer told HuffPost. “Which is fun, but it’s a little bit embarrassing.”

It brought up a key question, though: Which Flaming Lips songs are the most popular? Thanks to playlists on Spotify and other streaming services, Coyne gets to see firsthand what the world thinks of their music, at least in terms of popularity. This came in handy when curating the Lips’ new greatest hits collection.

The Flaming Lips have more than a dozen studio albums to their name, so there was lots of material from which to choose for the newly released “Greatest Hits Vol. 1,” which coincides with the band’s 35th anniversary. For Coyne, this isn’t just a throwaway collection of tunes. He was involved in nearly every step of the process, from tracklisting decisions to song remastering. In the end they came up with a mix of more popular tracks, B-sides and rarities.

“It really is a celebration,” Coyne said. “A lot of ‘Greatest Hits’ are put out in protest. Like the group doesn’t want it, but the record company wants it. ‘Greatest Hits’ are kind of just thrown out there sometimes. But that’s not the case with us, and it’s not the case with some of the greatest hits albums we’ve loved over the years.”

It’s also a time for reflection for the 57-year-old singer, who started the band in Oklahoma City without any major or long-term expectations.

“If my future self would have come back to my 22-year-old self and said, ‘Dude, you’re going to be doing this when you’re almost 60 years old and you’re going to love it,’ I would’ve been like, ‘Get out of here, you’re crazy! I’m not that responsible. I don’t want the things I’m doing when I’m 20 to still haunt me when I’m in my 40s and 50s,’” he said. “I would not want to be thinking of this as the beginning of this long, long story and legacy and this beginning of this big family. I would have been crushed by that. I thought the whole thing was only going to last six months, a year. And I’d figure out what the next phase would be.”

That six months turned into a three decade-plus career that’s seen Grammy wins, worldwide tours, art-inspired performances and critical acclaim. Coyne says he’s glad the success they’ve amassed over the years has come “a little bit at a time.”

“I see now how success ruins people and it pushes you off your trajectory of being creative and evolving,” he said. “The success that happened to us early on was just enough to keep us confident and to keep us doing it, and it didn’t give us any superpower over other people. It allowed us to see so much... We were lucky. We got to make our records, and people left us to ourselves because we weren’t trying to sell 100 million records. People weren’t giving us billions of dollars to make our records... If you had to do all that in two years when you’re 19 years old, you’re probably going to be crazy.”

Those little bits of success continue for the Flaming Lips. This year, they received a Tony nomination for their work on the score of “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical.” Coyne also attended the Tony Awards ceremony in New York City last month.

“We just embraced the absurdness of that stuff. Part of you thinks, ‘What are these awards ceremonies? Are they stupid? Are they useless? Is it just the industry celebrating itself?’ You can look at it as cynical as you want. But none of that is really true,” he said. “It’s all fun, creative, cool stuff to us. And to be invited into that world and be able to dress up and walk down the red carpet, some people think all that stuff is superficial, but we don’t.”

Now Coyne is eyeing the next Lips project: a new album to accompany his art installation “King’s Mouth.” With this ongoing creative momentum, Coyne likens the Flaming Lips to “Batman” movies or comics, where fans continue to follow a plotline.

“I can understand why people like that, because you’ve already established these characters and the story. And you can keep moving. I feel like we’re a lot like that in a way. We’re like a comic book that goes on and on. They keep having adventures,” he said. “They’re timeless in a way.”

But more than that, Coyne hopes they’ve been able inspire people over the years.

“By being yourself, you attract other people that want to be themselves,” he said. “I think that’s the greatest lesson that we’ve learned. People will say to us, ‘Man, I saw you standing there doing your thing and it made me want to do my thing’... I really do love being a creative weirdo.”

“If you asked me what would be the perfect day? If you could do whatever you wanted to do? It would be filled up with making something music and doing some art in my kitchen. I’m never longing to be free of that,” he added. “The Flaming Lips gives me this endless vehicle in which I can make another chapter.”

posted by derek brown - Jul 10, 2018 - 0 comments

FLAMING LIPS’ RESTLESS LABEL RECORDINGS REMASTERED AND RELEASED TODAY WITH ‘SEEING THE UNSEEABLE

READ MORE: NewsOK

by BRANDY MCDONNELL
Published: Fri, June 29, 2018 7:09 PM

The treats keep coming for fans of Oklahoma City-based art rockers The Flaming Lips, who are celebrating their 35th anniversary in 2018.

Rhino Entertainment releases today “Seeing the Unseeable: The Complete Recordings of The Flaming Lips 1986-1990,” a six-CD box set that includes remastered versions of the band's four albums for the indie Restless label — “Hear It Is” (1986), “Oh My Gawd!!!...The Flaming Lips” (1987), “Telepathic Surgery” (1989) and “In a Priest Driven Ambulance (With Silver Sunshine Stares)” (1990) - plus two discs of rarities, including the legendary "Mushroom Tapes" sessions and a collection of tracks from singles, flexis and compilations.

The box set also features sonic treasures such as "Unconsciously Screaming," “One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning” and the Lips' cover of "(What A) Wonderful World,” with all the music remastered by producer David Fridmann, with the Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Michael Ivins. Coyne told my excellent colleague Gene Triplett in a recent interview that remastering their old music was a time-consuming process.

“We knew that if we didn't put anything out — that's my biggest dilemma, as well, is putting out another record — if we didn't put anything out, it would allow us a good year or so to make these things and put them out. And so that's why they're all coming out this year. We started to work on it right after (“Oczy”) came out," he told Gene in the interview, which you can read here.

As previously reported, the Grammy-winning experimental rock band, which was founded in Norman in 1983 and signed in 1991 with Warner Bros. Records, released earlier this month “The Flaming Lips Greatest Hits Vol. 1.," a three-disc compilation – a massive 52 tracks - ranging from 1992's “Hit To Death In The Future Head” through last year’s “Oczy Mlody," along with a handful of rare B-sides and previously unreleased material.

In other interesting Flaming Lips news, Rolling Stone listed the lovely band's anthem "Do You Realize??" at No. 57 on its list of "100 Greatest Songs of the Century - So Far".

posted by derek brown - Jun 29, 2018 - 0 comments

THE FLAMING LIPS SHARE DEMO OF THEIR ‘SPONGEBOB MUSICAL’ SONG

LISTEN: "We Only Have Tomorrow"

READ MORE: Pitchfork

by Sam Sodomsky
Associate Staff Writer
JUNE 15 2018

The Flaming Lips have shared their original demo recording of “Tomorrow Is,” their contribution to the Tony Award-winning SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical. Their version is titled “We Only Have Tomorrow.”

The Flaming Lips recently released a greatest hits album and launched a podcast. They are currently on tour and will perform at this year’s OctFest: Two-Day and Single Day tickets are on sale now at Octfest.co. For more information, including lineups, news, and updates, visit Oct.co and follow @Pitchfork and @ReadOctober.

posted by derek brown - Jun 15, 2018 - 0 comments

Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne Plots Art Exhibit Debut

Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne Plots Art Exhibit Debut

Singer's "King's Mouth" art installation will open in October at Baltimore "outsider art" haven American Visionary Art Museum

Read more: Rolling Stone.

posted by scott - Jul 23, 2015 - 1 comment

Electric Würms Song Premiere on NPR Music! Go listen to I Could Only See Clouds now!

Electric Würms Song Premiere on NPR Music!.


posted by GeorgeSalisbury - Aug 11, 2014 - 0 comments

Electric Wurms Song Premiere: Hear 'The Bat' from the Flaming Lips Side Project

Electric Wurms Song Premiere: Hear 'The Bat' from the Flaming Lips Side Project on billboard.com!.

posted by GeorgeSalisbury - Aug 11, 2014 - 0 comments

Peace Sword Out Now

The Flaming Lips’ Peace Sword is available now digitally on iTunes.

The EP will be released on CD and vinyl Nov. 29th.

posted by wb - Oct 29, 2013 - 4 comments

Listen to Songs from Peace Sword

Songs from the Ender’s Game inspired EP ‘Peace Sword’ premiered today across a number of websites. You can listen to the songs here:

“Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)” on TheDailyBeast.com

“If They Move, Shoot ‘Em” on All Songs Considered

“Is The Black at the End Good” on Spin.com

“Think Like A Machine, Not A Boy” on Stereogum.com

“Wolf Children” on RollingStone.com

“Assassin Beetle The Dream Is Ending” on Pitchfork.com

Peace Sword will be available on October 29th digitally and on CD and limited edition vinyl on November 29th.

posted by wb - Oct 23, 2013 - 1 comment

Peace Sword

The Flaming Lips will release Peace Sword, a FIVE- song EP inspired by the upcoming film Ender’s Game.

The DSP Track list:
1. Peace Sword ("Open Your Heart")
2. If They Move, Shoot 'Em
3. Is The Black At The End Good
4. Think Like A Machine, Not A Boy
5. Wolf Children

PHYSICAL Track List:
1. Peace Sword ("Open Your Heart")
2. If They Move, Shoot 'Em
3. Is The Black At The End Good
4. Think Like A Machine, Not A Boy
5. Wolf Children
*6. Assassin Beetle - The Dream Is Ending

*TRACK 6 Only available on PEACE SWORD / PHYSICAL VINYL & CD AVAILABLE ON BLACK FRIDAY***

Peace Sword will be available on October 29th digitally and on CD and limited edition vinyl on November 29th.

posted by wb - Oct 15, 2013 - 1 comment
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