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Archive for the ‘The Flaming Lips’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MILEY CYRUS–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #161 (January 28, 2021).

I’m quite torn about Miley Cyrus.  I respect her individuality and her desire to push boundaries (and her Happy Hippie Foundation [created to rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations] is pretty great).  But sometimes I don’t always love her choices.

In all that time I’ve never given much attention to her music.  She was a pop singer (or worse, a country singer) and that was that.

Now, after getting mixed up with The Flaming Lips, who even knows what she’s up to.

For her Tiny Desk Concert (I can’t believe it’s barely over 11 minutes when so many other have done them over 20) she has built a tiny room, complete with a bed and a window and posters on the wall.  The room itself is probably three feet high and Miley, bedecked in a fascinating array (fake, one assumes) furs an leopard skin pants and a big hat and glasses.

The blurb gives rather an extensive narrative to Cyrus’ video

Here, the scene opens with Cyrus, dressed head to toe in rock-star faux fur, in what looks like a teenage girl’s bedroom. But the perspective in this pink-and-purple space feels a little … odd.  As Cyrus sings, it becomes clear that this is her Wonderland – like Alice full of magical cake, she’s grown to exceed her surroundings. By the end of this three-song set, Cyrus reveals that it’s the adolescent enclave that grew too small for her, not the other way around.

That give a lot of credit to a little video.  But whatever.  First she lounges on her bed and sings a pretty intense version of Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You.”

The original was pretty chill (and maybe a little boring) and Miley inject some powerful screams in the middle and her voice gets all raw.  It adds some drama to an otherwise chill song.  Or as the blurb says

a hazy psychedelic anthem that she infuses with just the edge of the next day’s hangover.

Up next are two songs from her latest album.

The two songs from Plastic Hearts that follow are her own bids at classic-rock timelessness.

In “Golden G-String” Cyrus assesses her own life in the spotlight with Leonard Cohen-esque charm.

She takes off her coat and hat (the video ifs filmed from different angles and there’s some overlapping edits.

This song is really quite catchy.  I think Id like to hear the album version.

And “Prisoner” is the power ballad that lets Cyrus really break out – as she leaves the tiny room — just a box, it turns out, on a soundstage – and joins her band,

Her poor band is never really on camera. It pans around a little before prisoner–you see some hands and some hair of Stacy Jones: drums; Mike Schmid: keys; Max Bernstein: guitar; Jamie Arentzen: guitar and Joe Ayoub: bass.

“Prisoner” sounds like a classic rock song-maybe from Heart or Fleetwood Mac.  This album is getting some good accolades and I might just have to check it out.

[READ: March 18, 2021] I Text Dead People

We brought this book home from the library for my daughter, but I found myself reading and (sort of) enjoying it.

Annabel Craven and her mother have just moved from Sacramento to this small town.  They moved because Annabel’s Uncle died and left his house to them.  Since they lived in a tiny apartment in Sacramento, her mom figured it was a step up.  Except that their new house is actually a creepy old “haunted” house that is adjacent to a cemetery.

On her first day of school, Annabel took a shortcut through the cemetery where she found a phone.  She had recently broken her phone and her mother was trying to teach her the value of things by making her save up for a new one.

Obviously, she will return this found phone to its owner, but until then, it might be nice to be able to communicate with people  Sadly, the phone has no power so she couldn’t locate its owner anyhow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #93 (October 9, 2020).

The Flaming Lips have recently performed a live concert in front of an audience (Yes!).  They did this by putting themselves and every audience member in one of Wayne Coyne’s giant bubbles.  What an amazing idea and a wonderful experience, I’m sure (especially after nine months of no live music).

Back in October, The Lips did their very first Tiny Desk Concert.  And, being the Lips, they decided to do their home concert entirely in their own bubbles.  (Although technically two people share two bubbles).

This Tiny Desk Concert features two songs from their newest album American Head.

The Flaming Lips have always embraced the surreal. Drugs are undoubtedly part of the culture, and on their new songs from American Head, drugs are at the core. These are songs for the lost, the overdosed dreamers, the damaged, the car crashed.

The open the set with “Will You Return/When You Come Down,” a simply wonderful song.

On the album’s opening track “Will You Return/When You Come Down” (which also begins this concert), Steven Drozd asks in falsetto, “Will you return? Will you come down?” while Wayne Coyne responds, “Thinking back to those lost souls / And their ghosts / Floating around your bed / Hear it said / Now all your friends are dead.”

I love everything about his song.  Gentle bells (from percussion Nicholas Ley) open the song along with Steven Drozd’s falsetto singing the refrain.  (Drozd is an amazing guitarist but only plays the keys in this set).  Wayne begins singing the verse.  It’s gentle and pretty, and then with a drum flourish from Matt Duckworth in comes Michael Ivins’ typically wonderful bass lines.

The song builds beautifully into a big major chord with Derek Brown’s acoustic guitar leading the way.

Whenever I’ve seen The Lips live, Jake Ingalls almost always sits on the floor.  In this set he’s sitting with Steven.  I’m never quite sure what he does, but I imagine he’s creating all kinds of interesting sounds.  Ingalls’ band Spaceface is pretty wonderful, but the way.

“God and the Policeman” features one of Ivins’ coolest basslines around.  It’s a stuttering rumble that seems to come from nowhere and adds a fantastic element to this song.  Ley adds in some tubular bells and Wayne plays the siren on his megaphone.  The main musical melody is a pretty piano circuit that soars with Wayne’s voice.

On the record, Kacey Musgraves sings the backing vocals but Steven takes them here. Wayne says that he has a good Kacey-esque voice.

Steven replies:

It sounds like you’re saying something nice but I can’t hear anything you’re saying.

The go back to 2013’s The Terror for “Be Free, A Way.”  Wayne says he wrote this when he was depressed.  He’s only been really depressed once or twice and this song came out of one of them.  I love the echoing vocals as Steven follows Wayne’s lead.  The vocal melody of two word sentences is just fantastic.

They end the set with “It’s Summertime” from 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Yoshimi is a fantastic album from start to finish, although this song is somewhat of a left-field choice–not one of the big hits from the album. Wayne gets a nice trumpet solo too.

This is a wonderful set to see.  And I really hope they bring their bubble shows to a theater near me.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “My Three Fathers”

I have not read any of Ann Patchett’s books, although I keep meaning to.  Her soon to be released novel is supposed to be fantastic.

This essay sounded kind of interesting even without knowing anything about her.  She talks about having had three fathers during her life.  She prefaces all of this by saying that marriage is irresistible to her family members: “we try and fail and try again.”  She and her sister have both been married twice, while her mother married three times (thus, three fathers).

Her first father was her biological father.  He and her mother divorced when she was little. Her second father was her mother’s second husband–he adopted her.  Her third father was her mother’s third husband.  Her mother married him when Ann was an adult.

She writes about this third wedding, the rare time when all three of Ann’s fathers were together and at which she got a picture of herself with the three of them.

Then she talks about all three men. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Lighting Strikes the Postman: The Flaming Lips Remix (2016).

This release came out on Record Store Day 2016.  It is, simply put, the Lips’ album Clouds Taste Metallic but remixed to remove all of the vocals and to highlight all of Ronald Jones’ guitar playing.  This was Jones’ last album with the band and he has become pretty reclusive since then.

You can hear the very basic structure of all of the songs–drums, bass and rhythm guitar are all there, but mixed low.  The rest of the CD is Jones’ rather unique style of playing–noisy, feedbacky, almost improv-y, but never out of control.

The release also comes with a comic book penned by Wayne Coyne.  The comic pretty much explains Jones’ guitar playing.

You see, after the band released the album, Ronald was abducted by aliens. Why would they take him? Because back then he had one of the most elaborate homemade pedal boards on earth.   He would hook together an endless amount of gadgets, some that were not meant to go together.  One night he connected to a giant antenna.  Then while searching for a sound to enhance the ending of “Placebo Head Wound,” he found the sound of the dreaded Zorgodrites’ freaky 2 way radio and boy were they mad.

They came down and took him away and he was never seen from again.

And so that’s what you get.  Around 55 minutes of guitar freakouts.  But unlike an album of just noisy, weird stuff, this collection is based around songs.  Some of the songs are the same length as the final product.  Others are a bit longer.  The opening track “The Abandoned Hospital Ship” is about three minutes longer than the album version–mostly for Jones’ noodling. 

I tried to sync up the disc to the original via Spotfiy with varying degrees of success.

If you know the album pretty well, you’ll recognize the songs–the verses and choruses are in tact, it’s just that you get to hear some wild guitar around those melodies instead of the melodies themselves.

It can be a disconcerting listen if you are expecting to hear the songs, but if you put that aside and just listen to the kind of things Jones is doing it’s a pretty cool exploration of the guitar.  But definitely not for everyone.

[READ: October 1, 2020] Cycling: The Craze of the Hour

I love books like this.  This is a collection of pamphlets from around the turn of the 20th century, both pro and con for bicycles.  The first item is an instruction manual about how to ride a modern bicycle.  The second talks about the dangers (to your heart) of riding a bicycle.  The third and fourth are humorous stories in which bicycles feature prominently.

The first bicycle was invented at the turn of the nineteenth century but the craze really took of in the 1890s. And so you get:

“The Modern Bicycle (with Practical Illustrations)” (1877) by Charles Spencer

Spencer was an early proponent of the bicycle.  In 1869, he rode from Trafalgar Square to Brighton in fifteen hours (Google maps says it should now take you a little over five on a bicycle, so that’s pretty impressive for 1896.)

This instruction manual is fascinating.  Now, the bicycle they are talking about is more or less a penny-farthing.  The “modern bicycle” may be slightly shorter than a pennyfarthing.  And yet, as a person who can ride a bike today, I can”t imagine riding one of these death traps. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BENEVENTO/RUSSO DUO-Play Pause Stop (2006).

This is the final release (so far) by the Benevento/Russo Duo.  There were two earlier ones that have not be reissued yet.  This follows in a similar style to the previous one, with great drumming and a wonderfully full sound from Benevento’s keys.

This album featured 9 songs and this reissue includes five live bonus tracks.  There’s a few shorter songs (under three minutes), but most are longer.  Like the title track, “Play Pause Stop” which is almost 8 minutes long.  It starts as a slow pretty melody with a lots of distortion on the keys.  There’s vocals on this track, but it still counts as an instrumental because the only words are whoa whoa–a happy inclusion for the chorus.

“Echo Park” is one of the shorter songs. It starts with simple piano melody and distorted washes of sound.  It turns into a super catchy, bouncy song.  Similarly, “Soba” starts slow and moody and turns into a rocking rager.

“Best Reason To Buy The Sun” features a lot of wild drumming.  It’s bookeneded by a pretty keyboard.  “Powder” opens with a pretty, staccato guitar melody.  The credits online don’t say who is playing the guitar.  The melody is looped as backwards solos are added.  It’s one of the trippier songs on the record until “Hate Frame” later on.

“Something For Rockets” opens like a Flaming Lips song with soaring chords.  It shifts to a singsong melody on the keys and then returns to the soaring melody.   The best title on the record is clearly “Walking, Running, Viking.”  It’s only 3 minutes long–a simple melody with a catchy solo near the end.

“Hate Frame: is 8 minutes long. It’s centered around a pulsing that sounds like an alarm followed by a rumbling bass.  By the middle of the song the music has turns utterly trippy, shooting off in all directions until it comes crashing back down with some fast frenetic drums.  The disc ends with “Memphis,” a slow loping song that sounds like it would work for a Western.

The bonus tracks are live versions of “Echo Park,” “Soba,” Walking, Running, Viking,” and “Something for Rockets” which all sound like jamming versions of the original.  The biggest change comes in the live version of “Play Pause Stop.”  It runs to nearly eleven minutes and stars with several minutes of noise and nonsense.  It’s surprising how long the noise goes on–they must have been having a blast.

[READ: August 31. 2020] Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

I bought this book for my son on a whim.  It was his birthday and the title made me laugh.  Now, he’s not much of a reader these days and it’s pretty unlikely that he would read a book like this, anyhow.  I knew when I bought it that if he didn’t read it I would certainly give it a go.

I thought that this book was going to be a funny look at an introvert going out and having a hilariously awkward time at various events.  I assumed it was comic essays.  Boy was I wrong.  This is, as the subtitle says, a book about Jessica Pan’s decision to start doing things.  This may not sound that compelling and when I first realized what the book was, I was a little disappointed–I wanted funny essays.  But then I read on about the things she actually said “yes” to and the book became inspiring (even if I’ll never do the things she did).

Pan starts out by saying that she doesn’t think anyone needs to be “cured” (introvert extrovert or otherwise).  But that she was unhappy and wanted to make a change.

Then she divides people in to two categories–those who would happily go to the Glastonbury festival and those who watch it on TV as if it was a horror show.  Obviously, as a painfully shy introvert she would not be going to Glastonbury.

Nearly one third of the population identify as introverts–people who gain their energy from being alone.  Meanwhile, extroverts get their energy from being around other people.   But there are two other parameters: shy and outgoing.  Some introverts can be confident in groups or when giving a presentation–they just can’t take the stimulation of large crwds for extended periods of time.  Then there are other like her who are shy as well–this is what she felt was making her miss out on things. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Will You Return/When You Come Down” (2020).

As part of The Flaming Lips’ slow release of new songs from American Head, here comes this gentle song “Will You Return/Will You Come Down.”

Wayne sings his falsetto vocals over a gentle piano and bells melody.  He sings the title a few times before the verse begins.

The verses are very Flaming Lips–a friendly vocal melody about death.

About half way through, after the second chorus, the song takes off with soaring backing vocals and more instruments added.

A vocal line (Wayne’s voice sped up?) sings the “will you return” part a few times before a folky acoustic guitar comes in to take over the chorus.  The last minute or so goes full on Lips with strings, different vocal lines (screaming from beyond) and a wild guitar solo.

Although there’s not much to this song, there’s quite a lot going on.

[READ: August 21, 2020] “Woven, Sir”

After reading some bizarre and exciting stories, this one felt rather dull.

A man is in a hotel in Madrid waiting for a friend.  He looks around the hotel, makes observations about the other people there and then notices a man name Tyler.

There’s a number of interesting lines in the story which I liked.  Like when the narrator requests food from the waiter and Tyler, who is not facing him, says

I notice that, regrettably, you haven’t improved your pronunciation.  You are as lost in Spanish as you once were in English, he says…. You don’t listen to how other people talk.  You never say to yourself, He speaks well, so I’ll listen to him and learn how to speak.

Then we learn that the narrator knew Tyler (it’s his last name, first name unknown) many many years ago, when the narrator was six or seven.  Tyler was a tutor at a facility called the Green Hut.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE FLAMING LIPS-“My Religion is You” (2020).

download (75)This is another new single from The Flaming Lips’ new, more mellow album American Head.

This song starts as a piano ballad about various religions.

It’s not the most profound song but it’s chill

Yeah, Buddha’s cool
And you’re no fool
To believe anything
You need to believe in
If Hare Krishna
Maybe it’s the
Thing for you
Hey, that’s cool

The chorus kicks in with big fat synth notes that almost feel sinister, but really aren’t.  Wayne explains that he doesn’t need religions, because his religion “is you.”

I don’t need no religion
You’re all I need
You’re the thing I believe in
Nothing else is true
My religion is you

There’s a pretty guitar solo and the end of the song is an interesting mix of scattered drums and quite synth noises.  It’s not their best song for sure, but it grows on you.

[READ: June 2020] That’s Not How You Wash a Squirrel

David Thorne is an Australian smart ass.  This is his fifth collection of previously unreleased emails and essays.

The foreword of this book is written by Holly Thorne, David’s wife.  And it is hilarious.  The Foreforeword is him arguing with her about whether she will write the Foreword–but only if she doesn’t say something mean about him.

So she writes things like

Davis does have a stressful job but let’s be honest, he’s not clearing landmines.  Even on my worst days I’m not half the diva David is.

After writing some more hilarious paragraphs, you see in a different font:

David is very brave, I once saw him flick a snake off the patio furniture with a stick.

In the Postforeword, he complains about her foreword.  That he comes off like a fuckwit and that there is no mention of the snake.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Flowers of Neptune 6” (2020).

After a series of much harsher, darker albums, The Flaming Lips’ new record, American Head (due out next month) promises a much brighter, warmer experience.  Perhaps one indication of the change is that the guest singer on this song is Kacey Musgraves.  Sadly, she is barely audible at all and doesn’t really add any of her own flare to the song.

“Flowers of Neptune 6” opens with a quiet piano melody.  There’s slow (albeit loud) drums and acoustic guitars–it’s a Flaming Lips ballad.  This one feels almost sixties-like with the echoing voices and the primary melody.  Not to mention the content:

doing acid and watching the light bugs glow -oh oh oh
like tiny spaceships in a row-oh oh oh

The chorus is slow but catchy and the end of the song is a minute of instrumental fade out with slide guitars, choruses of voices of a moment for Kacey to hum a solo.

[READ: August 1, 2020] “My Widow”

This story is broken into shorter sections as the dead narrator relates a story about his living widow.

First we learn that his widow is a cat person.  Or, perhaps more correctly, a crazy cat lady.  She has about thirty.  She feeds them and cares for them, but really doesn’t care about anything else.  So when the roof develops a leak, she ignores it and allows the water to drip right onto her bed.

It doesn’t seem like much is going to happen in this story. She ignores the roof until she can’t any longer and then calls a roofer in to repair it. But nothing much happens with that.

The scene shifts to shopping.  “In her day, my widow was a champion shopper.”  She has a collection of antique jewelry, glassware, china figures and the like” which the deceased says would be truly valuable if she took care of the house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Dinosaurs on the Mountain” (2020).

After a series of much harsher, darker albums, The Flaming Lips’ new record, American Head (due out next month) promises a much brighter, warmer experience.

They have already released a few singles from the new album, like this one.

“Dinosaurs on the Mountain” starts with a pretty, almost childlike musical synth melody.  Wayne Coyne’s (older and more raspy) falsetto voice floats above the music as he sings “I wish the dinosaurs were still here and now.  It would be fun to see them playing on the mountain.”

The song builds with slow drums and acoustic guitars as the it shifts to a large bridge with appropriate soaring backing vocals.  The song also has a suitably vibrato-filled guitar solo.  In other words, it sounds a lot like classic Flaming Lips.

This song (and album) is meant to hearken back to The Soft Bulletin, which it does, somewhat.  But the biggest difference is that the whole song feels like it’s hiding under an extra layer of distortion–like they couldn’t escape the production style of their latter albums.  Bulletin was very clean, and I do rather miss that cleanness on this lovely song.

[READ: July 20, 2020] “Jack and Della”

I had read an excerpt from this series of books a couple years ago.  I was really interested in that first excerpt.  Although this one I found a little less interesting.  Possibly because the main character of this story (who is briefly in the other excerpt) is down and out.  And without having seen how he got that way (which I think the other book showed), it’s hard to get fully into this character.

But he certainly comes across as an interesting fellow and knowing his past makes him somewhat more compelling.

Jack (full name John Ames Boughton) is the son of a preacher.  Most of his father’s sermons were directed at Jack, who was not always the best boy he could be.

Jack didn’t take much away from his father’s sermons, but the one about always having good manners did stick with him. So when a young black lady dropped some papers on the pavement, he crossed the street to help her gather them.  Her name was Della Miles. She thanked him and called him Reverend because of the black suit he was wearing (he had bought it for his mother’s funeral and was about to return it. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: May 17, 2020] clipping. / Cartel Madras

indexS. and I saw clipping. open for The Flaming Lips.  It was an unlikely pairing to be sure.  clipping. are a noisy glitch hop band fronted by Daveed Diggs.  Their songs are noisy and violent and more than a little unpleasant.

I won’t say that I enjoyed their set, but I was thoroughly engaged by it.  I’d be very curious to see what they are like as a headliner–more noisy, more abrasive even less pleasant, but a total experience, I’m sure.

clipping.’s new album “absorbs the hyper-violent horror tropes of the Murder Dog era, but re-imagines them in a new light.”  I have to assume the live show for this album is very intense.

Cartel Madras is a Canadian hip hop duo from Calgary, Alberta, consisting of sisters Priya “Contra” Ramesh and Bhagya “Eboshi” Ramesh.  Both sisters emigrated from Chennai, India and identify as queer women of colour.  They classify their music as “Goonda Rap”, a play on a term used in South Asian circles to describe a “thug.”

Their music has an original sound underneath it and I’ll be they are dynamic live.

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN–“Do You Realize??” (2019).

Here’s yet another cover of a great song by an artist I like a lot.

Sharon Van Etten covered the Flaming Lips’ song for the final episode of the Amazon Series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street.  This show is quite outstanding.  It’s a kid’s show but it has a lot of really great ideas.  T. watched most of it although I think maybe she stopped before the end.

Sharon’s take on the song was

When I was asked to cover a Flaming Lips song for Gortimer Gibbons, I was really nervous. But when I watched the scene and heard from the people involved in the music, they really wanted to hear my interpretation of both the scene and the song.  The show is sweet and smart and family oriented—and that is really important to me.

I can’t exactly imagine how this song, which is simultaneously uplifting and depressing, fits into this show.   I imagine it’s a sad scene, but again I haven’t seen it.

The original of this grows bigger and bigger as the verses continue.  There’s backing vocals, swelling strings/keyboards and a really epic feel.

Sharon’s version pulls all of that back.

It opens with keyboards, but they are quiet and soft, almost like a harmonium or accordion.  As she sings she strums along on the acoustic guitar.  She sings the song mostly faithfully to the original, although she does occasionally alter the melody line a bit.  Just before the chorus, a quiet drum beat enters but that’s really it for changes in the song.

It’s really understated and lovely.  And although I prefer the original because it’s just so darn good, this is a beautiful cover which brings new elements to the song.

[READ: September 25, 2019] Glitch

Scholastic Graphix is pretty consistently one of my favorite publishers for really good children’s graphic novels.  The stories are for kids, for sure, but they are gripping and entertaining for adults as well.

Glitch has a great look and an even better story.

We open with two girls, Izzy and Eric, drooling over a new video game: Dungeon City.  Izzy’s copy of the game is arriving this weekend which means VIDEO GAME SLEEPOVER!  Better yet, Izzy’s parents are not at home, so it will be snacks and games and pizza all night long.

When Izzy gets home, her game is waiting for her.  And while she knows she should wait for the weekend, it couldn’t hurt to see what it looks like.  The graphics are amazing and within seconds, she is sucked into the TV and into the game.  Literally.  After orienting herself, she is greeted by a robot (which is, strangely, missing an eye).  The robot offers to rescue her and Izzy rightly points out that she doesn’t need rescuing.  However, she will accept guidance from the robot who is named Rae.  But when Rae asks to hold Izzy’s hand, Izzy refuses that as well. (more…)

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