The Flaming Lips 2011: June, Gummy Song Fetus
Published on October 7th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Next in our round-up of The Flaming Lips’ 2011 activity comes in the form of June’s “bubblegum flavored gummy fetus with a USB drive with three new tracks embedded in it” – yes folks, it’s what registers on iTunes as the arrestingly mere Gummy Song Fetus.
In a month which also saw our heroes ‘drop’ a live run-through of The Soft Bulletin and a twenty-track mix tape selected by drummer Kliph Scurlock of Lips songs that share similar themes with The Soft Bulletin, they also unleashed what was the strongest yet of this year’s string of intriguingly presented EP releases. However, there is a nagging feeling that it could have been truly great with a bit more love and attention, a concession no doubt to the remarkable amount of recording they’ve done so far this year.
Better get on with it, then…
The Flaming Lips 2011, June: Gummy Skull Fetus
1.”Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear Part 2″
Despite feeling somewhat undercooked at first, repeated listens bring out a delicious flavour to this pulse-y, synthy, glowy thing with jangly yet syncopated guitar gorgeousness ice skating figures of eight over the top of it. Indeed, the robotic monotony of the arrangements contrasts quite beautifully with the brimming optimism of the whole lead melody, which consists mainly of feel-good mode Wayne Coyne and a divine, descending, electric organ in the chorus of “it’s gonna be a sunny day / Oh yeah I think it is”.
Although bolstered with a modern day Stephen Drozd/Dave Fridmann production, “Enthusiasm…” has the same kind of innocent euphoria about it as “Rainin’ Babies” [In a Priest Driven Ambulance, 1990], “Chewin the Apple of Your Eye” [Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, 1993 – note the grammatical inconsistency at play in the respective first words of each song] or “When You Smile” [Clouds Taste Metallic, 1995]. The aforementioned jangly solo guitar line is certainly in its peculiar way reminiscent of Ronald Jones-era Lips.
There’s a barking dog at the end and all. All in all, a thing of not immediately obvious majesty.
2. “Steven’s Moonbow”
One of those twinkly, nocturnal instrumental shorts that Drozd does so well, his titular moonbow arrives with all it needs, all dramatic plastic string section and dark, Embryonic-style keyboard droplets – and, unlike some other recent Lips ‘atmosphere’ pieces we could care to mention, doesn’t outstay its welcome. Nothing to take issue with here.
3. “Squishy Glass”
…which somehow manages to at once be the best and most frustrating Flaming Lips track of the year so far. Best because of the otherworldly and discordant yet somehow (there’s that word again, and it’s a good word to sum up the Lips) astoundingly beautiful chorus of robots slowly saying “aye aye aye” over and over again in various, seemingly impossible, tunings. At least, that’s what it sounds like. It also sounds like the mysterious no man’s land between universes and the, uh, transcendent transgression thereof. (Y’dig? It kind of does, though.)
Conversely, it’s the most frustrating because it leaves the nagging feeling that it doesn’t quite manage to live up to this inexplicably powerful opening two minutes. Or does it? It may sound noodly and messy but there’s a solid and really rather sexy slow hip hop beat holding it all together, as well another Lips masterclass in how to imbue two-note bass lines with hypnotic properties.
Coyne’s sweet vocal harmony with the oddness around it is near rapturous at some points but feels like it could do more at others. Perhaps one emphasises the other. Either way, it’s all kind of eerily transfixing and, by the time Drozd unleashes fat beams of quickfire synth all over the joint like some candyfloss ray gun (though not as sinister as the one from classic b-movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space), you might feel somewhat transported.
Further listens may yet make sense of it but this writer has already listened to it quite a lot and it still feels like the Lips’ equivalent of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song”: seemingly going somewhere unprecedented before completely avoiding all the safe options thereon after, leaving you unsure whether to appreciate it for doing so or wring its neck for missing the simple trick.
All in all, “Squishy Glass” toes the line between genius and madness so recklessly that it might in time be looked back on as something of a magnificent curio at the very least. That status might even be doing the song a massive disservice. Maybe after another twenty listens I’ll know.
Rocksucker says: One very good track, one respectable filler track and one track that could conceivably turn out to be many years ahead of its time = Three and a Half Quails out of Five!