The Flaming Lips Battle Your Home Theatre
A Review of the Flaming Lips's Yoshimi Battles the Robots 5.1 (DVD/CD)
In late 1997, the early punk rock/neo-psychedelic experimental rock band Oklahoma the Flaming Lips released a beautiful, well produced, and orchestrated exercise in chaos, the four CD set entitled Zaireeka. Inspired by their experimentation with multiple sound sources during their parking lot experiments in which lead singer and bandleader Wayne Coyne conducted a parking lot of cars, each with a cassette deck loaded with a tape specially composed for use in the larger piece, Zaireeka allowed listeners to mix four CDs of music, all of which had a different instrumentation of the same songs, to their own choosing. Now, five years later, the Flaming Lips continue their fascination with creating vast sounds cape out of multiple sound sources. This time, however, the Lips are using your home theatre system (specifically those with Dolby Digital 5.1 capabilities) to bring you their critically praised and award winning 2002 album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
The two disc set, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 5.1, includes both the original CD (for those of you without 5.1 capabilities) and a DVD chocked full of a fun assortment of music videos, unreleased bonus tracks, and the complete Yoshimi album remixed and remastered in both advanced resolution stereo and surround sound.
Forget about Norah Jones and Coldplay, the best album of 2002 was the Lips’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The under appreciated album continued the band’s creative zenith reached in 1999’s The Soft Bulletin into both an eclectic and accessible masterpiece of music. In short, Yoshimi is probably the best concept album since the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The album begins with the accessible, catchy hook of the Cat Steven’s-esque of “Fight Test”, which tells the story of pacifistic boyfriend who loses his girlfriend after he refuses to stand his ground and fight for her. The beautiful chorus, which simply states “I don’t know where the sunbeams end and the starlight begins; it’s all a mystery. And I don’t know how a man decides what’s right for his own life, it’s all a mystery”, is shrouded in the driving rhythms of the drums and bass guitar and embellished into a echoed space.
The album’s third track, “Yoshimi Battles the Robots pt. 1”, is the band’s second provision of access to the album. It is poppy and fun, telling the story of the lead character, Yoshimi, while Coyne croons, in his Neil Young like rasp, “Oh Yoshimi, they don’t believe me but you won’t let those robots defeat me. Yoshimi, they don’t believe me but you won’t let those robots eat me.”
The forth and worst track on the album is the over the top techno of “Yoshimi Battles the Robots pt. 2”. It is obnoxious, excessive, thankfully short, and completely redeemed by one of the album’s two best tracks, “In the Morning of the Magicians”. Clocking in at over six minutes, “Magicians”, begins with the steady drive of drum beat and synths and fades into the spatial shadows of Coyne’s rendition of its beautiful lyrics. The highlight of the track, however, is the instrumental of the final third as it sinks into the epilogue of the drums, synths, and applause.
The second, and stronger, half of the album climaxes with “Are You a Hypnotist??” and the bittersweet beauty of “It’s Summertime” playing into the wrap up of the popular and incredibly overrated single, “Do You Realize?” and the conclusion of the Grammy award winning instrumental “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)”.
The album’s strongest track, and subject of an EP also released last Tuesday, “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell”, breaks the album in half. The song showcases the best instrumentation and lyrics on the entire album, simply revolving around the lyrics of “I was wanting you to love me but, your love, it never came. All the other love around me, was just wasting all away.” The newly remixed 5.1 version showcases the aspects of the track extremely well while the EP falls rather short on below par remixes of both “Ego Tripping” and “Do You Realize?”. Not many bands release EPs anymore and while the remixes make the EP rather stale, it also includes new songs, the highlight of which being “Sunship Balloons”, one of the most lovely songs written about sex in the past twenty years. The chorus, again carrying a simple message, croons “Let’s do it once, let’s do it twice, let’s do it all night till the sunrise comes too soon in a sunship balloon” over a sounds cape reminiscent of everything heard on the Yoshimi album.
Regardless of if you have a 5.1 system, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 5.1 is an improvement over its predecessor. The inexpensive album, which boasts the inclusion of both the regular and previously released edition of the CD along with the DVD filled with the remastered and remixed audio of stereo and surround sound, music videos, making of documentaries, unreleased tracks and alternate versions, and even a movie trailer for the Lips’s long coming film Christmas on Mars is a great addition to any CD collection. Yoshimi 5.1 would be the best album of 2003 if it had not been released in 2002.