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Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

April 29th, 2007 · No Comments · Alt-rock, Electronica, Indie, Music, Pop/Rock, Prog, Psychedelia


The best album of the last ten years?


I know for certain that not all the music I have bought and am listening to recently will stand the test of time. It is a pessimistic assertion but true to say that a great deal of modern music is ephemeral and quickly exhausted. However, it is now nearly five years since the release of ‘Yoshimi’ and I honestly feel that this album is one of the great modern albums, if not of all time. Despite being unfashionably progressive and ostensibly a concept album, it is given levity throughout by its wide-eyed innocence and playfulness. Coyne’s cracked, faux-naive vocals never sound better than in awe-struck wonder at the cosmos, which is why the encroaching political bitterness and cynicism of ‘At War With the Mystics’ is less timeless and ultimately dissapointing.

While ‘Yoshimi’ retreads familiar lyrical ground to its great predecessor, The Soft Bulletin, the sonic pallette has been radically embellished to incorporate unashamably artifical soundscapes; bleeping, whirring and pulsing as colourfully as the backdrop to a science-fiction movie. And, like all the great science-fiction, ‘Yoshimi’ is a metaphor for more earthly concerns, and works because it deals with the big questions on a human scale; the marvel of human existence as seen through a childlike perspective. ‘Do You Realize?…’ Coyne implores us on the track of the same name, ‘…that everyone you know someday will die? That instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast, it’s hard to make the good things last’. It’s incredible that such a spine-tinglingly joyous song could contain the bleakest assessment of all, that the ‘sun don’t go down, its just an illusion caused by the world going round’. It is the joy and beauty of the record that makes it so universal, without resorting to fey brooding or adolescent rage. Equally brilliant is ‘All we have is now?’, a lament on the passing of time disguised as a deceptively simple space ballad. With Coyne singing ‘You and me were never meant to be a part of the future’, it works on the level of a breakup song but, at the same time, a more profound sadness that the future is not ours to enjoy.

If these songs encapsulate the concept at the heart of ‘Yoshimi’, the album is packed with equally brilliant songs. The opener, ‘Fight Test’ is one of its most identifiably poppy, despite its monstrously tweaked basslines, with Coyne ruminating on his failure to take up a fight against an unknown menace. Superficially the enemy is the ‘Pink Robots’ of the album title but is obviously suggestive of a more fundamental human struggle or, just as easily, a personal/emotional conflict of Coyne’s. ‘In the Morning of the Magicians’ finds Coyne submitting to the forces of the universe over its most expansive and psychedelic backdrop: ‘As the dawn began to break – I had to surrender / The universe will have its way – too powerful to master’. ‘Are You a Hypnotist?’, perhaps the album’s angriest song, is also dazzlingly original. While the music is propulsive, the lyrics are seemingly sung in a slow-motion stupour as if from another dimension. Coyne’s rancour seems equally likely to be directed at a lost love as at God himself: ‘What is this?? Are you some kind of hypnotist?? Waving your powers around – the sun eclipse behind the cloud…’. Despite the nonsense title, ‘Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell’ is the most emotionally conventional, with Coyne ruing lost opportunity: ‘I was wanting you to love me, but your love it never came’. It is almost possible to imagine a sweet 3-minute pop song under the shimmering, bonged-to-oblivion electronics. ‘I was waiting on a moment’ Coyne tells us, but the song finishes with the gorgeous heartbreaking refrain, ‘But the moment never came, But the moment never came’ fading out but presumably continuing into infinity. There is much more to mention but there is not the time or the space to do so here. But I hope this album will get the respect it deserves, to be mentioned alongside some of the all-time greats. If you don’t own it, do so.

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