River City ~ Dispatches from Austin

Monday, August 19, 2002

After having weeks to digest the new Flaming Lips album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, we are ready to weigh in with one more opinion. After all, doesn't one of the most anticipated albums of the year deserve one more Johnny-come-lately review that amounts to no more than that voice in the back of the assembly hall hollering "yes, me too!" — long after the conversation has turned elsewhere?

Ahem. The Lips have become the standard bearers of "Geek Rock." Like They Might be Giants, Primus and Cake, the Lips are playing music for everyone but inspired by the nerdy, somewhat sarcastic hipster who first taught you how to dress weird and be proud of it. The songs are at turns funny, solemn, reflective, annoying, and interesting. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots feels like something you're supposed to outgrow, like Nintendo. But, like Nintendo, the album is still cool. It's like, you know, a paradox?

The opening song, "Fight Test," is infectious and really a lot of fun. Some speaker-rattling bass drives a sonic, video-pinball style song, which has an interesting twist - we've heard the melody before. In some ways, it's unbelievable that it is so obvious (and weird). That's right, the New York Post called them out for borrowing an entire melody from… Cat Stevens. They didn't name the song, but don't think too hard about it. It involves a father and a son (and no mention of a fight test).

Elsewhere on Yoshimi, The Lips tackle the heady problem of robots becoming human: Another robot learns to be/something more than a machine… and our mortality: All We Have is Now. The title track is wonderfully catchy, and sounds like a video game, even with some "hey-hey" thrown in for karate chop action. It's funky and its got style, which pretty much holds true for the entire album.

There is nothing life changing here, and all of the "album of the year" talk was premature and unnecessary. The Flaming Lips delivered in their patented unpredictable way, and it leaves us with an interesting album that will still feel fresh 20 years from now. So, if you've been sitting around for the past couple months wondering about it, pick it up now. It will awaken the geek in you that wants to go back to waking up late, getting high and playing video games. It will remind you that work sucks and getting old is a drag. Whenever you get bummed out that your car insurance costs too much, you can break out the Lips to give you some perspective:

Do you realize we're floating in space
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

In other news, Los Lobos confirmed for an already packed bill at the Austin City Limits Festival (see below). Our understanding is that the schedule will be posted on Sept. 1, and that's when we try to really make sense out of what could be a chaotic situation. Two days, six stages, and more than 50 bands will make for a hectic weekend where some tough decisions might have to be made. Are you prepared? Can you handle it? Are you ready for the football??


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