The Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack introduced me to the Flaming Lips, with the “Buggin” remix smacked in the middle of that disc. I do not recall how I discovered the Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but I do know that those two albums are amongst the holdovers (along with Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Beck’s dolorous-yet-plaintive Sea Change) from the CD collection of my Jew-fro touting high school days. “She Don’t Use Jelly” sounds as splendidly goofy in 2009 as it did when the Lips played it on Beverly Hills 90210.
The Flaming Lips are one of those bands that I can easily and confidently pass along to two hopeful post-grad sweet hearts, Nurse Pauline and/or Cassie Ramone. More importantly, I affirm that the Flaming Lips (especiallySoft Bulletinera Lips) are the closest thing—along with all those Elephant 6 collective bands—of recent artists that have come to equaling the dignity of Beatles/Pink Floyd-esque psychedelia. I would even say they further it. The Lips have always sounded huge and expansive in a way the Beatles and Floyd did not. They can make guitars sound like grinding teeth and subsequently throw a Snuggie (musically-speaking) around the planet formerly-known-as-Pluto. Dave Friedman, despite his missteps in producing the second Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record, simply rules.
So for me, the Lips live show is an entity to be kept completely separate from the Lips recording output—which in my opinion is sacrosanct, minus the lesser-loved At War with the Mystics, and the impossible-to-listen-to-unless-you-actually-have-four-stereos-lying-around-and-four-outlets-to-plug-them-into-all-in-the-same-room—Zaireeka.
A variety of characters convoked at Philadelphia’s Festival Pier. The production team, clad in matching Bob-the-Builder attire, erected the Lips’ latest set extraordinaire as the crowd awaited the band’s arrival. The show started off with the incandescent image of an animated Bollywood woman pleasing herself on a giant screen. The Lips, in their perpetual state of arrested development, arrived one by one, entering through a door in between her legs. Wayne Coyne crowd surfed in his trademark bubble, simultaneously vocalizing and conducting as the band thrashed its way into “Race For the Prize” on stage. The whole thing sounded swell, as did the band’s slow, stripped-down take on Yoshimi opener “Fight Test.”
The crowd’s ears sharpened as Coyne and gang road-tested the first single, “Silver Trembling Hands,” from the band’s anticipated upcoming album, Embryonic. A hot selection of dancing Furries could not defer the onslaught of rain, which sadly ended the set after only six songs. Unfortunately, the cover of Madonna’s “Borderline” was not one of them. Rain-battered fans battled an entourage of Pink Floydians to get out of the place in one piece. The Batman Forever-showcased Lips song “Bad Days” could not have been more appropriate. Although merchandise venders sold Lips shirts that read “No one is ever really powerless”, I couldn’t help but feel dubious. But I do love them Flaming Lips. Live Nation… please throw these disappointed kids a frickin’ bone here.