The Flaming Lips- The Soft Bulletin
What’s considered to be The Flaming Lips’ ‘Magnum Opus’, the first real brilliant album of theirs after the weird DIY punk/psychedelia/badly produced/confused records they came out with previous to it. This one had a very cohesive, passionate theme to it all too, they decided to go and compile a long musical viewpoint on humanity. It seems to be a long message of hope against a very overwhelming, nasty world. Musically it’s a really passionate, and really pretty album too, the first album they’ve done that I’d probably consider to be pretty. They’ve gone and done long passages of confusing fuzz, and now they’ve decided to go for the more conventional, it is a lot poppier and accessible, which could be a good or bad thing, though it definitely gets more of a message across.
'Race for the Prize' sets it all off as one of my favourite album openers, this one beginning with so much energy, still with quite a passionate and slightly melancholic tone. It begins with “Two scientists are racing for the good of all mankind.” To me this describes the power that individual humans can have on the world when it comes to things like science. It tells a story of a competition between two scientists to create something that would cure everyone, it's just a positive view of humans, though it can be interpreted negatively, because in a way it could be about the 1945 atomic bomb if you listen carefully. Especially when it leads onto 'A Spoonful Weighs a Ton', which could well be referring to an atom, weighing a ton when it creates the reaction that makes a giant explosion, this is still within the theme of the power humans have, except a little more negative, this power comes through in the awesome bassline when it makes its way into the songscape. Though it could just refer completely vaguely to how little things can make such a large difference to people. This theme of 'little things making a difference' carries on to 'The Spark that Bled' which is where he “accidentally touched” his “head” ie. had an accidental epiphany/idea, and it made him stand “up and” say “yeah!” ie. it totally changed his life, this has a bigger picture to it, about how ideas are the tiny things that can completely change people's mindsets, one example being something like Darwin's theory of evolution, which changed the mindsets of almost everyone in the world (“it seemed to cause a chain reaction”) on how they became who they are. This song is where they've started to get a bit of electronica involved in everything, and it makes for a good addition. It has a beauty to it, this one.
A wonderful little compressed drum fill then takes us into ‘Slow Motion’, which I find is looking at how we feel like the past has gone so much quicker than what we see of the present, and the future. And how so much time has been leading up to the moment we are in in the present - “It takes a year, to make a day” - and how if we think of everything in that respect, we are going in slow motion. Or they could have been high. Either way it’s an interesting song, making use of some nice psychedelic production methods (crazy panning). ‘What is the Light?’ is then a very obvious wonder of where we are and how we got there, the strangeness of it all, plainly questioning it all. It’s a really epic, euphoric song too, and I love it, nice one Flaming Lips. ‘The Observer’ is then a brilliant instrumental, which oozes curiosity, it is a carry-on from ‘What is the Light?’ letting us ponder where we are to some curious, and quite epic in its own right, music. I do like the guitar melody, and the delayed piano effect in the background. It’s full of emotion and grandness. ‘Waitin’ For a Superman’ then goes back to the very human themes of the album, this one was said to be an ode to Wayne Coyne’s father who died before this album was released, it’s an emotional, genuine song about how the world is hard for human’s to deal with, and that they should just “hold on”, and that maybe the problems of the world are even “too heavy for superman to lift.” It’s possibly one of the most genuinely emotional songs of the album.
'Suddenly Everything has Changed' keeps this passion going, however with the addition of a shameless rhythm section, and some euphoric sections, I like the two sections in the song, in 4/4 and 6/8, separated by a beautiful rhythmless section. It's a very well-composed song, with such emotion. It's a nostalgic song about realising how different we are to when we were younger, and how different the world is. It uses a meaningless task like “folding up the shirts” to show that these repetitive meaningless tasks are what actually make us forget about the past to think about the present. 'The Gash' begins really quite dramatically, really demonstrating their difference as a band since their fuzzy previous releases. It's a dramatic expression of how humans still battle on, despite all the problems they have deep within them, how they “fight for their sanity,” and that sometimes the biggest fight is to understand “that you're broken.” It's a brilliant epic tune that sounds almost like it could be the music in an old school video game or something, possibly on purpose, possibly not. 'Feeling yourself Disintegrate' I find is actually talking about death, either that or drugs, it's a very dreamy song, perfect for drugs, though it's also a perfect place in the album to talk about death, it's what humans battle on to get to eventually, and in death we do disintegrate into the world. And then it has the line “life without death is just impossible.” It's a lovely dreamy song and one of the best on the album.
"Sleeping on the Roof’ is then another emotional, passionate instrumental, it follows a piano melody playing within what sounds like a natural environment. This one I think is to contemplate death to, in all its melancholic emotion, in doing that it makes the song so beautiful. The name makes sense here, in a ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ sort of sense, about particles of yourself making their way to the sky, or the "roof". Saying that this song I’d say is possibly The Soft Bulletin’s 'Great Gig in the Sky', I like how it repeats and repeats until it gets quite intense. 'The Spiderbite Song' is then said to be about their guitarist 'Steven Drozd's heroin addiction and, in a bigger picture of things, how much human's get through in life, car accidents, drug addictions, how they happen, and how they can just get through and get over it. It's just a bit of a ballad by Wayne Coyne about Steven, with themes that refer to bigger things, like a lot of songs on the album. It's a really well-produced song too, with some wonderful textures running through it. The album then ends, in a really strange way, with 'Buggin', about… bugs annoying people. It is probably referring to all the meaningless things that just follow you through life, like bugs buzzing around your head. It's still a strange place to end, the music has a nice fun vibe to it, and it's a nice celebratory end to the album musically. I guess they wanted to end the album in a nice light-hearted fun-loving way. It's a really meaningful passionate album overall, packed with so much emotion and genuinity. Well done Flaming Lips.
Recommended Listens: “Race for the Prize”, “Waitin’ For a Superman”, “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate”
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