TOTW: The Flaming Lips_ Sound of Failure

I have been doing this blog now for over 3 years and looking back on It’s history there is one band that I haven’t covered as much as I should have, It’s time to rectify this.

I first heard The Flaming Lips on the UK release of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots so I would have been around the age of 15 and I instantly fell in love with the album. In time this love grew to their entire back catalogue, from their early drug fuelled punk/grunge through to their development In more progressive, psychedelic and experimental rock. They have been a soundtrack for nearly half my life. The highs and lows have all been accompanied by their music and on one amazing occasion, my life and the band collided when I got to go on stage with them at the Manchester Apollo and dance like a nutter dressed as Santa. A memory that will be with me for the rest of my life.

It was in this brief few hours that my thoughts towards making music changed. I had always loved music and used to enjoy playing instruments, this was crushed by bad experiences in education but I remember vividly thinking on stage as I jumped up and down that, although this was a surreal experience it was also real. That performing in front of thousands of people was possible and making music was for everyone. This is one of the key events, which turned me back from just a lover of music to a creator. To put it quite simply, without The Flaming Lips there wouldn’t be this website.

But without this experience I would still be a fan of The Flaming Lips because of their music. If you haven’t given them the time of day you should. This is a band that have never restrained their creative freedom or let what other people think get in the way of what they make. They have often attempted to make projects that are hugely ambitious both technically and creatively and amazingly most of the time achieve them successfully without over-stretching.

As someone who is into production of music The Flaming Lips and their producer Dave Fridmann have offered it in spades with interesting, creative and often fresh methods of sound design and mixing. This works well with a band whose lyrics vary into some really alternative and strange territories but are always rooted in lead singer Wayne Coynes profound understanding of the human condition.

This leads us to my TOTW “Sound Of Failure” although it’s not one of their most well-known tracks it is one of my favourites and manages to summarise what I love most about the band in its runtime. We get a large verity of orchestration and textures throughout, from synthesised elements of the orchestra, both electric and organic drums, guitars, and many layers of vocal overdubbing with unique processing techniques.

These vocals tell a story of a girl who is introspectively contemplating the death of a friend but Wayne Coyne looks at the situation in a more complicated way than most song writers with maturity that can only stem from experience. Instead of a one-sided view that we usually hear which will be aimed towards one emotion or feeling such as Hate, Anger or Love we get a mix of complex emotions. The sense of loss of a friend but also the power of resolve and growing through acceptance and self-reflection. It also references music that doesn’t handle these feelings with the lyrics “go tell Britney and go tell Gwen. She’s not trying to go against all them” which exemplifies how a lot of pop music simplifies human emotions which are always more complicated.

It’s this empathy in humanity that has always attracted me to Wayne Coynes lyrics and the music of the flaming lips. Under all the grand external stories of priest driven ambulances, wars with giant pink robots, time travellers, magicians, psychedelic monsters etc. There is always, incredibly well thought out internal struggles with the characters involved which anyone will be able to relate to.

The Flaming Lips manage to be both one of the most creative experimental pop rock bands out there whilst also creating music that deals with subjects that are both surreal and insightful. They will continue to be the soundtrack to my life as I get older and are one of the few acts I will listen to everything they create because even when it doesn’t work it is always full of great ideas and when it does work their tracks can be about as perfect as music can be:

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