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| 5 November 2018 | Reply

Warner Bros
June 2018
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10

Oklahoma natives The Flaming Lips formed – staggeringly – in 1983, and have been releasing trippy, often experimental, indie music for most of that thirty-five years, and this isn’t their first compilation album despite what you might read in some reviews.

A double disc best of, plus a disc of rarities and obscurities, Greatest Hits Vol 1 traverses a lot of territory over most of those three-and-a-half decades, starting way back when they were an only slightly trippy indie rock band, before the brown acid REALLY kicked in.

What it shows most is a band determined to be different no matter what, even in their relatively early days.

Ignoring their first four albums – release prior to signing with Warners – the album kicks off with a slew of tracks from 1992’s Hit To Death In The Future Head, the cuteness of the relatively simplistic tunes balanced by the genius of Wayne Coyne’s songwriting and unconventional singing voice (even though he hadn’t yet found the pitch and range he would).

She Don’t Use Jelly was an early Indie hit from the following year’s Transmissions From The Satellite Heart, and is accompanied by from that album and its follow-up, Clouds Taste Metallic. Any thought that …Jelly might have lumped them in the novelty basket are easily shot down by the intensity and inventiveness of surrounding tracks Turn It On, Psychiatric Explorations Of The Fetus With Needles and Lightning Strikes The Postman.

Only Riding To Work In The Year 2025 appears from the must-play-all-four-discs-at-once release Zaireeka before The Soft Bulletin – a major release for the band which gave them their first real mainstream crossover success – is represented by tracks Race For The Prize, Waitin’ For A Superman (Is It Getting Heavy?), The Spark That Bled and What Is The Light? round out disc one.

Disc two opens with four tracks from Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, possibly their most commercially successful and fully realised album. Oddly omitting Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon (Utopia Planetia), which won the Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy gong in 2003, seems a mistake, but there’s only so much time on each disc, we suppose. Best of all is Do You Realise?, arguably one of the greatest ever philosophical rock songs of all time, and certainly the finest, most concise distillation of all that The Flaming Lips stand for. It’s gorgeous, glorious, heartfelt, tear-jerking and a divinely perfect slice of cosmic universal love, right down to the refrain, “do you realise that everyone you know some day will die.”

At War With The Mystics was a heavier, more straightforward and organic album, and four tracks including the hit single The Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Song are featured here. Further tracks include Silver Trembling Hands and two others from Embryonic, Is David Bowie Dying? From Heady Fwends, and a brace from The Terror, Try To Explain and Always There In Our Hearts. Most recent studio album, 2017’s Oczy Mlody, is represented by a further three tracks, including There Should Be Unicorns and How?

The Flaming Lips have released a wealth of non-album – and non-traditional album – material, including at least one 24-hour-long song, a myriad of single, b-side and soundtrack music, have reimagined and released their own versions of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and the first Stone Roses album, and issued extremely limited Eps on flash drives embedded inside gummy bear fetuses and even inside a real human skull (limited to 13 copies, only!). To even attempt to compile all of this would be ridiculous – that way madness lies. I am certain it is all available to stream or purchase or download online.

The third disc of this collection does cherry pick from the more obscure side of The Flaming Lips life though, with EP and non-album single tracks, B-sides, bonus tracks from 5.1 expanded album re-releases, and soundtrack contributions than span many years and many styles and serve more than anything else as a startling eye opener to what these most non-conventional musicians are truly capable of.

Coyne & Co’s uniquely skewed world view gives The Flaming Lips psych prog indie rock its body and soul, and they never seem to have caved to dumbing down for the sake of a hit. When they’ve wanted to write an alien invasion concept album as an allegory for loving thy neighbour, they do so, and in doing so refuse to pander to the ole U.S.of A, instead setting it in Japan starring hero child Yoshimi. When they choose to collaborate with Henry Rollins, Peaches, or a slew of experimental artists, they do it. When they choose to release albums inside gummy bears or skulls, they bizarrely do it. And no matter hardcore fans grumbling at the track selection, it provides enough of an overview of a storied and challenging career to prove that there is no-one quite like The Flaming Lips.

Category: CD Reviews

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