THE FEARLESS FREAKS
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 28, 2005
Movie review by David MalschThe best thing about The Fearless Freaks is Wayne Coyne.The best thing about The Flaming Lips is Wayne Coyne. He may not be the real talent in the band but he is the heart and soul.Without Coyne's leadership the Flaming Lips would not exist. He is an artist, first and foremost, a wide-eyed imaginative showman that is a rare commodity in today's music scene. He's a throwback in this modern world but at the same time such a groundbreaking influential artist of the future.
The Flaming Lips formed back in the mid-eighties in Norman, Oklahoma. Heavily influenced by Gibby Haynes and the Butthole Surfers and later on, Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction. The Lips were an untalented hillbilly-punk version of The Who.Early on, the Lips fascination with the art end of art rock shown through, more creative and visual than musically talented. Bass player Michael Ivins got the job even before he knew how to play the instrument. But it was the addition of drummer Steven Drozd that changed them from loud hillbilly punk to what they are today. The potent mixture of Coyne's widely imaginative vision and Drozd's musical prowess have turned the Flaming Lips into one of the most influential indie bands of all time. They may have started out to be a Butthole Surfer wannabe, but they have succeeded that on so many levels.
The great thing about The Fearless Freaks is that you don't need to be a fan of the Lips to enjoy the film, it is a film that will turn you into a fan instantly. If it isn't the band themselves that turn you on, it will be the music they make and the art the surrounds it. Longtime fan of the band and neighbor of Coyne, Bradley Beesley has directed a love letter to the fan base of the Flaming Lips. His knowledge and history is so evident in this film, he just puts the pieces together and this wondrous story is told.
The film begins in the heart of Oklahoma with the Lips meager beginnings. Coyne's childhood amongst numerous brothers that started out calling themselves the fearless freaks, due to their love of mixing drugs with sports.Instead of just getting high on drugs, they would organize brutal, no-holds-bars football games and boxing matches in their front yards. Stoned to the gills with a taste for blood. Wayne eventually moved away from that and started the Lips. The amazing thing about Coyne is his tireless work ethic that he says he inherited from his father. The pure genius of his art, mixed with his enthusiasm for music.In the early days of the Lips when there was no money included touring as a band and then returning home o his job at Long John Silver's where he worked for over 11 years. There is a great scene where he returns to the restaurant (that is now a Vietnamese restaurant) to reenact a robbery that happened with the Vietnamese kids whose family now owns the place.
But in the most powerful scene of the film, Director Beesley has a harrowing scene of Drozd feeding his heroin addiction. The pure talent of Drozd is only foreshadowed by his addiction, an addiction that Coyne will not confront, even though he knows it could ruin the band. Drozd talks candidly while he fills his needle, talking about his addiction and the music. It is a scene that haunts the viewer and gives the most amazing insight to the mind of a drug addict.
The Fearless Freaks begins with the history of the band but ends with their success in the indie world. The groundbreaking work of Transmissions from a Satellite Heart (1993) and Clouds Taste Metallic (1995) to the pure genius of The Soft Bulletin (1999) and to their recent Grammy winning album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002). Also included is their amazing concept album released in 1997 called Zaireeka that required its listeners to play all four CD's at once to achieve it's full sound. It began with a performance in a parking garage at SXSW that included the same idea involving 40 car stereos playing at once, an automotive orchestra. It is those concepts that have made Coyne and the Flaming Lips leaders and legends in the world of indie rock. Currently, Coyne is making a low budget film featuring the Lips called Christmas on Mars, which is about a manic-depressive Santa Claus living on Mars amongst the Martians.
I was lucky enough to be at the world premiere of the film at the 2005 SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.It was a thrill, especially with my admiration for the band. To enter the private life of someone like Coyne, who is has honest and real as they come, was a privilege. He is as inspiring as he is talented. In the end you want more and you want Drozd to beat his addictions. The Fearless Freaks makes you proud to be an indie music fan.
Note: The 2-Disc DVD includes deleted scenes, outtakes, live clips and a photo slideshow.
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