As I briefly mentioned around the end of year hoopla, the release of Christmas on Mars has reinvigorated my love of The Flaming Lips. Not because that album is so good (in fact, it’s so sparse that it hasn’t sunk in with me yet, but more on that later), but more just because it was nice to have the weird acid freak Flaming Lips back, and it made me realize how much I miss that band. This is not a “They sold out!” kind of post – they’ve toiled away for years and I am thrilled to see them improbably become stars – but I do miss some of their old insanity.
And so, I’m embarking on a little journey here, making my way through the complete Lips catalogue album by album and sharing some thoughts. Perhaps it will bore you to tears, or perhaps it will inspire you to dust off your copy of Clouds Taste Metallic and rock out. We shall see.
Onwards and upwards!
THE FLAMING LIPS EP (1984)
This is their not widely available debut EP, re-released in a 3 disc set with their first 3 proper albums and assorted odds & ends. Essentially this is their Syd Barrett phase (and I doubt that will be the last Pink Floyd comparison) as Wayne’s brother Mark is the front man at this time. He apparently was a bit of a kook – I’ll let Wayne summarize, in his own words (the quotation marks are Wayne’s, not mine):
My brother Mark was, and still is, a very intense person. He was considered an exceptional athlete and a high school football star. He has boiled and drank his own blood. Has rescued countless doomed animals (he currently has a three-legged dog). He has torn down an entire house using only a single hammer. He consumed over a hundred doses of L.S.D. one summer when he was 13 years old. And he has a “self-diagnosed,” “split personality,” “competition neurosis” that he has named “the duality of man.”
So there you have it.
This bizarreness shows on this EP. It’s very rough with little polish and a lot of freak out style jamming and singing. Still, there’s some pretty great stuff. “Bag Full of Thoughts” is a nice little single, and “My Own Planet” is very much in line with what the band would do in the coming years without Mark. There’s also some odd covers collected here including the theme from the Batman TV show and “Communication Breakdown”.
My Own Planet
Overall, the big thing you get here is energy. These are young guys just pounding their sound out. That early 3 disc set is titled Finally the Punk Rockers are Taking Acid which fits this perfectly. It’s got crazy raw energy, but instead of always attaching that energy to a short poppy song, sometimes they latch it onto a 9 minute space jam, such as the early version of “Jesus Shootin’ Heroin” (which is awesome).
It’s amazing to think of this thing coming out in 1984, the year of Born in the USA, "Like a Virgin", etc. Is it a great start to their career? No, but it’s got some strong moments and shows that from the get go, these guys were out there doing something pretty odd.