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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Warner Bros. Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Is it wrong that we judge albums by previous accomplishments? Should I give the Flaming Lips less credit for their new album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots because I liked Soft Bulletin and Zaireeka so much? No.

Soft Bulletin and Zaireeka are in the past. I own and love both albums, but since this isn't a rehash of either of those releases, there's no need to worry about them. Unlike so many reviewers have done before me, I refuse to get caught up in a battle between Yoshimi and Soft Bulletin. Should you be upset that the Lips fail to utilize one of their biggest assets on this album, Steven Drozd's pounding drums? After all, even Soft Bulletin had the searing drums of "Race for the Prize". Absolutely not. Drum machines and studio trickery have all but replaced the pounding drums, but the album still sounds good and thick. I miss those drums as much as the next guy, but you can't get mad at people for trying new things. Especially when they do them this well. We are a society that bases much of like of things on where they rank. What movie won the Oscar? What show got the highest ratings? If CSI gets the top spot then it must be the best. "I haven't seen Citizen Kane and a bunch of old people decided it's the number one movie of all time. I'd better see it." Unfortunately, this happens in indie rock. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will surely finish the year on many a top ten list battling Wilco, Sonic Youth, and And You Will Know Us By The Trail of The Dead for the top spot. Is that the reason you should but this Yoshimi? Absolutely not. See Citizen Kane because it's a great movie, but don't buy it simply because it ranks number one. As a hypocrite who has submitted a couple of top ten albums of the year, I say buy this album because you might like it, not because some English magazine will call it the year's most elaborate syncopation of noises. Buy it because at some time you will be sitting in your favorite chair or lying on your bed listening to the album and you'll hear Wayne Coyne say "I don't know where the sunbeams end and the starlight begins" and you'll say to yourself "Hell yeah, I don't either." Alright, I know what you're thinking, "Bro, just tell me about the album." But I am telling you about the album. Sort of. Fine, here's a clearer synopsis.

"Fight Test" starts things off with yet another in a long line of Flaming Lips' great opener. The Lips have a real knack for picking the perfect song to open each album and this time they have built themselves a new sounds cape, but it makes complete rocking sense in its dub bass way. The song is different enough from the Lips' past to say that it is not a rehash, but similar enough to sound familiar, especially considering the next song, "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21", which veers completely of course. If it wasn't for Wayne Coyne's voice, "Symphony" wouldn't be out of place in the land of electronic/R&B crossover acts. A highlight of the album occurs when the Flaming Lips let it all drop down and unleash "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt. 2" - an instrumental song that works like the Flaming Lips coming with some wicka-wicka funk as only the Flaming Lips could fart out. The album's second half takes on a much softer, ethereal feel then the first half, but it works just the same. In headphones during a song like "It's Summertime" you can almost feel yourself float away. Especially, when Wayne sings tells the person with a case of self-reflected inner sadness to "look outside, I know that you'll recognize its summertime." Have truer words ever been spoken to those of us who long to enjoy every day to its fullest, but never find the time or ambition?

Wayne Coyne has been preaching his psychedelic brand of logic for years now, but on this album and the preceding Soft Bulletin, a philosophy of synchronized hope and despair has emerged. On "In the Morning of the Magicians" he sings, "What is love and what is hate and why does it matter?" On "Do You Realize" there is "everyone one you know will someday die and instead of saying all your goodbyes let them know you realize that life goes fast/Its hard to make the good things last" Hopeful? Not really. Disgusted with life? Not quite that either. Coyne somehow manages to say things we all wonder about without sounding too obvious. He clearly doesn't have any answers, just contradictions and questions. Just like the rest of us. Only it sounds way better when he says it, especially when his band is constantly landing on new planets of sound.

So where does this album rank on this year's Top Ten list or in the discography of the Flaming Lips? Just fine thank you very much.

Reviewed by John Steinbacher
The last we heard, Steinbacher was living in Minneapolis.

See other reviews by John Steinbacher



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