Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Album Review: The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) (4.5 / 5)

I promise soon to review a new album from 2008. Until then, I'm still having fun exploring albums from earlier this decade. The Flaming Lips had a major UK hit in 2002 with "Do You Realize?" from this album. It's a great big British rock ballad and I enjoyed it at the time, but didn't venture forth to hear the band's album. Too bad, because it's really quite awesome--very melodic, with a mix of upbeat and sad songs and a good dose of sci-fi rock.

First track "Fight Test" opens and closes with an operator declaring the start and end of "the test," whatever it might be. It's a lackadaisical, melodic track with synths and guitar and a slight retro flavor. Darker "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" ups the electronics and has a laid back loungy vibe. Be sure to let the song play out to the end, which features a warm electronic coda.

Next comes the album's best track, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1," a sweetly melodic mix of acoustic guitar, synths and electronic beats. It tells the story of Yoshimi, who's some sort of female gladiator who fights giant pink robots. I guess that's her on the cover up there. It sounds like a weird song--and it is--but it's oh so good. Too bad "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2" is a disappointment; an overly repetitive instrumental track.

Fear not, for the album gets right back on track with the gorgeous "In the Morning of the Musicians," which alternates between a Moby-like synth instrumental and acoustic guitar and melancholic vocals for the verses. "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell" is more experimental, as well as more electronic sounding, but also quite good. "Are You a Hypnotist?" has a grander sound and trippy mix of drums and sharp spacey keyboard notes.

Then there's that hit single I mentioned. "Do You Realize??" is a sublime song, which you've surely heard in some ad campaign. It has that epic British rock sound you get from combining drums, bass, guitar, strings, and chimes. The lyrics are pretty good, with the depressing (but very true) line, "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?"

The album could end there if it wanted to, but there's still two more tracks. "All We Have Is Now" is another keyboard-driven sci-fi-ish track, that starts out slow and sad, picking up the pace for the chorus. Then finally there's spacey "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)," which won a Grammy for best rock instrumental. Odd, but not bad.

This album really makes me want to check out their 1999 album, The Soft Bulletin, which from everything I've read is supposed to be the band's masterpiece. My expectations are very high, as it would be hard for it to top this surprisingly enjoyable album.

Best: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1, Do You Realize??, Fight Test, In the Morning of the Musicians, Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell, All We Have Is Now, Are You a Hypnotists?

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