The Flaming Lips 2011: July, EP with Lightning Bolt
Published on October 13th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker’s round-up of The Flaming Lips’ 2011 activity continues with a look back at their July EP with “psychedelic freak-out band” Lightning Bolt.
In theory, the Rhode Island duo’s cataclysmic brand of sonic assault would appear to make them ideal studio bedfellows for the Lips’ current wave of profound oddness – but, as with this year’s other releases thus far, the understandably slapdash nature of the project made for decidedly mixed results…
Read our review of March’s The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian EP, our review of April’s Gummy Song Skull EP, our review of May’s The Flaming Lips with Prefuse 73 EP and our review of June’s Gummy Song Fetus.
The Flaming Lips 2011, July: The Flaming Lips with Lightning Bolt EP
1. “I’m Working at NASA on Acid”
If not quite the kind of macabre death-march with which our heroes decided to open some of their previous EPs from this year, “I’m Working at NASA on Acid” is nevertheless in a similarly slow, stompy, minor-chord vein, with heavily-effected acoustic strumming underpinning Wayne Coyne’s disembodied lament concerning the disappearance of people and ants alike due to his presumably drug-fuelled narrative indiscretions.
That is, until around the three-minute mark, when the track suddenly gives way and re-emerges as a crashing, rushing, strangely beautiful (t’was ever thus) skywards trajectory, perhaps representing some kind of mistakenly-accelerated rocket launch, a vessel burning up as it passes at high speed through the earth’s atmosphere. ‘Cataclysmic’ is definitely the word for this section, with just enough harmonic sensibility to keep it the right side of the exhilarating/headache-inducing divide.
An almighty, whirring retreat seems to bring the song to its conclusion but it then winds back up again and leads into a reprise of the opening section in which Wayne asks “the insect” how it flies, and whether it feels pain when “he” (no longer ‘it’, in case that’s significant) dies, with a mournful cello line thrown in for extra funereal gravitas. All in all, a pleasing start.
2. “I Wanna Get High But I Don’t Want Brain Damage”
As Homer Simpsons once put it: “Yes, yes, yes! THIS rocks!” This time around, the ‘stomp’ is left to the bass rather than drums and is thus central to a playful raucousness/raucous playfulness, as opposed to the prior doom-mongering – and the result is a track that will bug the hell out of some but put big, fat grins on the faces of those who refrain from taking it too seriously. Rocksucker is very much in the latter, grinning category on this one.
There’s not much to write about it other than that it’s two minutes’ worth of piercingly fuzzy instrumentation, an hilariously-treated vocal line repeating the titular refrain over and over, aforementioned stomping bass, the occasional section of ‘zoned-out’ electronic whirring and a video so entertainingly bat-shit crazy that you’ll want to show it to everyone you know, regardless of whether you think they’d love it or hate it.
“I Wanna Get High but I Don’t Want Brain Damage” should never be thought of as one of The Flaming Lips’ crowning achievements but it’s a marvellously bewildering and delightfully divisive thing to have around nonetheless.
3. “Nasa’s Final Acid Bath”
…in which snippets of “I’m Working at NASA on Acid” weave in and out of harsh, clattering drums and discordant sound collages that have Lightning Bolt’s dirty fingerprints all over them. There’s even what sounds like a vacuum cleaner at one point, although it begins to meld so seamlessly into the wall of almost terrifying racket that you’re left unsure.
The track lasts for five minutes and, unless you happen to be on weapons-grade hallucinogens, is largely unreviewable. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, mind – just…weird. And, although that’s probably the point, one can’t help shake the feeling that it’s a completely unnecessary test of one’s patience.
4. “I Want to Get Damaged But I Won’t Say Hi”
Although starting off sounding as if it was going to be the “…Brain Damaged” equivalent of “Nasa’s Final Acid Bath” – little wonder that these latter two tracks reverse the billing to ‘Lightning Bolt with The Flaming Lips’ – this one at least has some semblance of a melody line, albeit a tenuous one, in the form of a squawking, freeform who-the-hell-knows-what line dancing like some mental butterfly atop a relatively steady drumbeat.
The monstrously-manipulated vocal line of “…Brain Damaged” is revisited to disconcertingly loose effect, and that’s about the sum of our muster-able thoughts on this one. Suffice it to say, if you find yourself listening to this one on repeat then you better start saving up now for what could be a gruelling programme of psychotherapy ahead of you.
Rocksucker says: Two good-bordering-on-great tracks + two helpings of impenetrable lunacy = Three Quails out of Five!