I had been aware of The Flaming Lips for at least a year, but I only decided to buy one of their albums about three weeks ago. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was the one that I chose. My initial reaction to the album was very positive, but it has continued to grow on me for the last three weeks.
The Flaming Lips are a weird but wonderful pop/rock band from America, who have constantly challenged themselves throughout their career, releasing many great albums, so I'm told. To describe this album's sound, I would say that it has a fairly poppy sound mixed with large amounts of psychadelia and space rock. I consider this album to be too experimental and complex to be called pure pop. The production is flawless and the band creates a wide sonic palette using synthesisers, electric and acoustic guitars, basslines, strings and drum machines. The effect is that the album sounds symphonic in an electronic way, the various electronic sounds lifting these heartfelt, endearing songs into space.
As soon as the opener Fight Test kicked in with its wonderful vocal melodies and acoustic guitar backed up by squelchy analog synths to create originality and a more psychadelic sound, I was blown away. The production made all of these beautifully crafted and layered sound very clear. However, the album then changed direction in the more subtle and almost ambient One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21, which uses ominous digital noise and relaxed piano chords to build a large amount of atmosphere, but also makes use of tempo changes for the song's optimistic chorus. This particular track has lyrics that ask the question, can robots learn to feel emotions? The album is packed with lyrical meanings, sung in an always heartfelt and whimsical way by singer Wayne Coyne. On a similar theme, there is the fairly daft but metaphorical tale of fighting evil machines in part 1 of the title track. This is an extremely catchy pop song with a chopped up acoustic guitar riff and bouncy drum machine. Part 2 of the Yoshimi suite is a noisy instrumental, meant to symnolise Yoshimi defeating the pink robots, as crazy sythesizer licks are placed alongside crashing drums and piercing shrieks.
After this, the album seems to shift gears lyrically, encouraging listeners to live life for the present and enjoy it while they can. This is most obvious in Do You Realize?? This is the album's biggest hit, which has a very grand symphonic sound and moving lyrics. However, I actually prefer the preceding song It's Summertime, the album's most beautiful and perhaps moving song, where Coyne sings, "Look outside, I know that you'll recognize it's summertime". This is perhaps telling us when we are depressed to realise that we are in fact living in our golden years (and yes, I do like Iron Maiden). In the Morning of the Magicians is a semi-epic with many beautiful sounds and a more complex song structure thrown in to make give the song a wistful, shifting feel, similar to its vocals and lyrics. There's also Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell, which has a great bassline, wonderful expansive synths, insectide rhythm and beautiful vocals. This then segues into the moody expansiveness of Are You a Hypnotist? This song has a very spacey feel and is another of my faves. All We Have Is Now is the album's weakest song, but it is by no means bad, and adds to the album's message of living life for the present. The closing instrumental, which won a grammy award, is incredible. The layering of sounds which both contrast and compliment each other make the perfect dreamy atmoshpere to end the album. In this track,and throughout the album, the bands ability to be so strange and creative but also accessible is astounding.
All in all, I am very glad I bought the album. The symphonic layering of electronic sounds, wonderful melodies, heartfelt vocals and lyrics and excellent songcraft make Yoshimi a truly brilliant and inventive album that no one should miss out on. Compare it to just about any pop on mtv today and you'll understand.
By the way, the album covers, both front and back are very cool.