The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
(Warner Bros. Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 29, 2002
Review by Tony BonyataEccentric creativity has never been one of The Flaming Lips shortcomings. From the cinematic psychedelic sweep of their last opus The Soft Bulletin to their odd, if not highly ambitious, 1997 release Zaireeka, an album's worth of material split between four separate CDs that, to be properly understood as a single piece of music, had to be played simultaneously on four different stereo units, this band has always been teetering somewhere between bona fide pop music and outsider art. So it should come as no surprise that on their ninth studio effort, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, that this Oklahoma City trio has produced yet another strange, eclectic production that, as always, challenges its listeners.
While their own brand of heavy instrumentations and artsy approach could easily be misinterpreted as alternative prog-rock, their lightheartedness, sly sense of humor and swizzle stick electronica keeps them from wallowing in any such pretensions.
While the psychedelic orchestration that swells throughout Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots at first may seem an extension of The Soft Bulletin, its really more of a departure in terms of vision. Whereas The Soft Bulletin resembled the soundtrack from Walt Disney's Fantasia had it been directed by Ken Russell on nitrous oxide, Yoshimi, like the cartoonish Powerpuff Girls title implies, comes off much lighter in tone and dimension, while still retaining all of the ethereal lushness and texture that flourished throughout their last effort.
Of course, that's not to say that this album is, by any means, one dimensional. On the contrary, just jumping from the light-hearted Part 1 of the title track, featuring the frail vocals of Lips' leader Wayne Coyne and non-threatening hip-hop beats, to the heavy electro-infused instrumentation of Part 2 illustrates the huge canyon of different styles lurking within the minds of these mad musical, dare I say, geniuses.
For those who may view The Lips as a mere one-hit-wonder, due to their only Top 40 hit "She Don't Use Jelly" back in 1993, miss the point of this band. While their songs are filled with pop hooks, they are best understood within the context of their specific albums, whether conceptual or not, and not mere MTV fodder.
Differences from their previous material aside, though, Yoshimi stands triumphant as a collection of quirky, swirling psychedelic pop songs rich in soundscapes, that do in fact win the battle, as the monstrous electronics of The Lips are tamed into something much warmer and humane this time around.
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