The Flaming Lips The Flaming Lips… Now into their fourth decade of awesomeness

The Flaming Lips: a chronological playlist

Published on February 19th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams

The Flaming Lips release their new album The Terror on 1st April, and Rocksucker is pretty darn stoked about welcoming another addition to what is already one of the most remarkable back catalogues in history. If you are one of the uninitiated then now’s as good a time as any to be getting yourself up to scratch – so, to aid you on your quest, Rocksucker has compiled this chronological playlist of our favourite Flaming Lips moments. Enjoy, then investigate further…

“With You” (from 1986 LP Hear It Is)

The first track of the Lips’ first full album, “With You” points towards many years’ worth of freakouts to come by leading a sweet ‘n’ simple acoustic strum into swirling, pounding, full-band cacophony. An early instance of A Great Flaming Lips Idea…

“Love Yer Brain” (from 1987 LP Oh My Gawd!!!)

One of the first Flaming Lips ‘epics’, this eight-minute album-closer bangs down some stately piano chords and a formative (embryonic?) version of Wayne Coyne’s ‘mind-blown look at the crazy world around us’ lyricism…ends with two minutes’ worth of ridiculous crashing about and a looped Beatles sample…

“Chrome Plated Suicide” (from 1989 LP Telepathic Surgery)

On an album boasting some pretty raucous moments, this melodic number – marked by Richard English’s pounding “Be My Baby” drums and Michael Ivins’ sweeter-than-sweet bass – points towards the sheer splendour that was to follow on In a Priest Driven Ambulance, particularly on tracks like “Rainin’ Babies”

“Mountain Side” (from 1990 LP In a Priest Driven Ambulance)

On what is arguably The Flaming Lips’ first truly great album (and the first to feature Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue), “Mountain Side” rocks some serious donkey balls on its way through such memorable Coyne-isms as “I hold your electric toaster while standin’ in your bathtub of love / And I’m flyin’ through your mountainside / Dyin’ in your plane crash of love” and segues into the LP’s curtain-closing cover of Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World”

“Talkin’ ‘Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)” (from 1992 LP Hit to Death in the Future Head)

Crazy title, daft “oooh wop wop!” motif, solid gold power pop: this opening track is a stone-cold Flaming Lips classic, energising even through the somewhat murky production and paving the way for a succession of gems indicative of a band that had well and truly hit their stride…(a quick mention for the phased psychedelia of “Felt Good to Burn” and the lyrics within it, a sterling example of which must be “That night at Kim’s when that guy ripped us off / We borrowed a gun to get him / We were so pissed off, we shot his leg / He was a dick, anyway”

“Be My Head” (from 1993 LP Transmissions from the Satellite Heart)

By now the Lips have taken on the chirruping, screeching lead guitar of Ronald Jones and the vast-sounding drumming of Steven Drozd, becoming pretty much perfect in the process. “She Don’t Use Jelly” may have garnered the band an unprecedented level of attention (check out this performance on Beverley Hills 90210, for example), but Rocksucker’s favourite Transmissions… cut has to be between the berserkly stomping lesbian anthem “Pilot Can at the Queer of God”, the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks vulnerability of “Chewin the Apple of Your Eye”, and this instantly winning wonky-pop singalong…

“When You Smile” (from 1995 LP Clouds Taste Metallic)

‘Airborne’ seems like a good way to describe this album, and not just because of the cloud-tasting. Here is the sound of the Lips taking a hop, skip and a jump on the way to 1999’s commercial breakthrough The Soft Bulletin, albeit they had to jettison Jones’s unique lead guitar in the process. Jones’s sky-scraping cacophony was interspersed by such gorgeously twangy moments as those found on this utterly swoonsome number, which also evidences Coyne’s peerless way with combining human warmth and dispassionate science (“All of the subatomic pieces come together and unfurl themselves in a second… When you smile”). Blissful, basically, as is the album it graces…

“Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (Your Invisible Now)” (from 1997 LP Zaireeka)

Grammatical error in the title aside, this track from the Lips’ notorious Zaireeka album, which came on four CDs all intended to be played simultaneously, shows Drozd successfully translating the vastness of his drum sound into new elements of the band’s sound. Through all that bizarre experimentation, perhaps the greatest songwriting dynamic of our age was born – here for your convenience is a mixed down version of a track that neatly encapsulates the fusion of grand arrangements and freaked-out psychedelia that characterises Zaireeka, which incidentally is a compound of the words ‘Zaire’ and ‘eureka’…

“The Gash (Battle Hymn for the Wounded Mathematician)” (from 1999 LP The Soft Bulletin)

The big, blue Super Mario World in Drozd’s head had by now fully merged with the cracked beauty inside Coyne’s, resulting in a bold leap into the unknown befitting of the year it came out in. The Soft Bulletin sent critics into raptures, with some declaring it a modern day Pet Sounds, but for all the stylistic revolution it was and is just another incredible Flaming Lips album. This stomping great battle march showed a band so far ahead of their peers (with the possible exception of Super Furry Animals, whose Guerrilla album of the same year should also have been received as a landmark) as to be quite out of sight…

“It’s Summertime” (from 2002 LP Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots)

“Do You Realize??” may have struck the more universal chord by dint of its single status, while the singalong of the title track remains a tremendous amount of fun, but this fragile comfort ballad – written after Coyne had received an email informing him of a friend’s death – is for Rocksucker the gobsmacking centre-piece of an album otherwise characterised by the infusion of playfully cartoony electronics into the ornate arrangements of The Soft Bulletin. “Are You a Hypnotist??” is a fine example of that new direction, but “It’s Summertime” never fails to leave us utterly floored…

“Pompeii am Götterdämmerung”  (from 2006 LP At War with the Mystics)

Almost seven years on, we still cannot fathom the relative lack of love for this album. Sure it starts with a couple of light-hearted numbers – not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially when they’re as brilliantly bonkers as “Free Radicals” – but the cosmic explorations that ensue are still very much of the goosebump-inducing variety. Rocksucker was blown away almost immediately, and this tale of two lovers fleeing a volcanic eruption – featuring incidentally a first lead vocal from Drozd – is not just majestic on record but also one of the greatest things we’ve ever seen performed live…

“Sagittarius Silver Announcement” (from 2009 LP Embryonic)

Just when we thought The Flaming Lips couldn’t possibly get any better, they revamp their sound yet again – this time resulting in a sprawling set of dark, paranoid jams – and somehow manage to turn in their greatest triumph yet. Embryonic is one of those rare albums that changes the way you listen to all music – heck, all sound – and this spaced-out flight of fancy finds Coyne at his ‘beamed down from a higher plain’ best…

“Squishy Glass” (from 2011 EP Gummy Song Fetus)

This is our favourite thing to have emerged from the Lips’ flurry of 2011 EPs – an astoundingly beautiful chorus of robots slowly repeat what sounds like “aye aye aye” in various, seemingly impossible, tunings, leading us into a slowly staggering trip that might be a bit too noodly for its own good, but by that point our brains are too scrambled to care…

“I Wanna Get High But I Don’t Want Brain Damage” (from 2011 collaboration EP with Lightning Bolt)

You might find this either the most irritating or most rocking-est thing you’ve ever laid ears on. Needless to say, Rocksucker is in the latter camp. Check out our recent interview with Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale for more about this awesome collaboration…

“You, Man? Human???” (from 2012 collaborations LP The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends)

The Flaming Lips and Nick Cave, together at last. Does it rock serious monkey balls? And how…

Hmmm…there doesn’t seem to be a video for this one, so we implore you to go find it for yourselves. What would make your own personal Flaming Lips playlist? Have your say in the comments section below, why not?

The Flaming Lips - The Terror

The Flaming Lips’ brand new studio album The Terror will be released on 1st April by Bella Union in the UK and Europe, and Warner Bros in the US. For more information, please visit www.flaminglips.com

Artists:

About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.