The Flaming Lips 2011: May, EP with Prefuse 73
Published on September 20th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Our round-up of The Flaming Lips’ 2011 activity continues apace with a look back over May’s collaboration EP with psychedelic glitch-hop king Guillermo Scott Herren, aka Prefuse 73.
As with the previous two EPs, there seems to be no official breakdown available as to who contributed what to each track, so this review is an appraisal of the music itself first and foremost.
If you’re looking for biographical insight…well, so is Rocksucker.
Anyway, let’s put the record on…
1.”The Super Moon Made Me Wanna Pee”
Quite aside from boasting one of the best song titles by a band whose career is partially defined by brilliant song titles, there is much to like about this “Super Moon” and its urine-inducing properties.
For starters, it sounds relatively finished, something which Rocksucker couldn’t say with any conviction about some of the tracks on the previous two EPs.
Rocking on the kind of distorted, pulsing, twiddly two-note bass line which is rapidly becoming a trademark (are we right in thinking we can attribute this to Wayne Coyne?), “Super Moon…” goes straight for the jugular with entertainingly frantic drumming, an ascending two-part harmony of the words “comin’ up!” and the obligatory weird synth noises bubbling and fizzing about in the mix.
The analogue distortion of Embryonic is not only present and correct but also still sounds fantastic coming out of a pop landscape which generally prizes clean, slick production over any kind of genuine experimentation. (This is a great article about the Lips’ recording techniques, featuring detailed commentary from Coyne, Steven Drozd and the band’s long-term producer Dave Fridmann.
You will need a more thorough knowledge of studio terminology than Rocksucker’s in order to understand much of it but, at the very least, it gives some idea of the radical thinking at play on the part of three of the most creative musical minds of our time.)
Oh yeah, the track. Well, after about two minutes, it breaks down into an At War With the Mystics-esque orchestral section with extra added electronic swirls, and there it stays for the remaining minute or so. More an aural experience than a song per se, “Super Moon…” is hardly a Flaming Lips classic but at least this time there’s enough going on inside it to reward repeated listens. And, at the rate they’ve been working, perhaps that’s about as much as we could ask of them for now.
2.”Heavy Star Moving…”
Don’t give up on this one even if it does play through fairly unremarkably at first; there is substance in its nocturnal atmospherics. Although much of the first minute gives rise to fears that it will be another “Hillary’s Time Machine Machine”, eventually the insistent, distant chirruping of what sounds a bit like that air raid siren-style iPhone alarm (as is, I’m fairly certain given that I wake up to it each day, featured on the Lips’ version of Dark Side of the Moon) is smoothed over by a combination of guitar, synth and Coyne vocal that comes across like one of Hit to Death in the Future Head‘s more spectral moments.
The effect of the distant air raid blaring behind the slow, hazy instrumental and vocal delivery is such that it captures quite expertly that confusing, occasionally blissful state between wake and sleep, therefore rendering it the ideal soundtrack for such demi-consciousness if somehow you are able to arrange its presence without disturbing your sensory environment.
In fact, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Blur’s “Strange News From Another Star”, although its flutters of strings give it a sense of something about to happen – which, it turns out, is a round of big ol’ reverb-y synth belches which gently pummels the whole thing back into submission. Yes, gently pummelling – like the softest bullet ever shot.
Very much like a halfway point between the respective down tempo moments of At War With the Mystics and Embryonic, “Heavy Star Moving…” just about manages to justify its near six-minute running time purely by existing in another realm for the duration, a realm in which time is relegated to the status of mere earthly matter. That means it’s good. We think.
3.”Be Like That…That…That…”
…in which a gentle, robotically-rendered Coyne vocal goes more or less a cappella atop a cacophony of fairly irritating noises. It’s another aural experience, alright, but it’s so far from being a necessary one that you can’t help but wonder about the quality control being exercised over this string of releases.
It might be four minutes and thirty-one seconds of interesting noise for someone who happens to be tripping balls while listening – but, to your average punter, there’s not much to say about this one other than that you would have to be either demented or downright sinister to ever think to yourself, “You know, I quite fancy listening to ‘Be Like That…That…That…’ by The Flaming Lips.”
And, yet again, maybe that’s the point.
Boasting a glitchy intro (glitchro?) which smacks of the man whose Bolero it after all is, this closing track ends up as four-odd minutes of what is essentially well-produced noodling.
A disturbingly discordant ambient jam. There’s not an awful lot more to say about it other than that, much like “Be Like That…That…That”, it wouldn’t get within a million miles of a Lips album proper.
Rocksucker says: Two very good tracks + two absolute toss-offs = Two and a Half Quails out of Five!