Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Freak Out vol. 6: The Warner Years Begin

So, after the glories of In a Priest Driven Ambulance, our lovable heroes were improbably signed to Warner Bros. and set to make their major label debut. But first, they popped out a quick EP with the awesome title Yeah, I Know It’s a Drag… But Wastin’ Pigs Is Still Radical. Alas, this is now out of print and one of the few Lips items I do not own. Boo. If by some freak chance any of you own this, let me know. On we go…


I mentioned earlier that there were a few Lips albums I knew less than others, and this is one of them. It fills a weird spot for them as it continues the sound of Ambulance, but is unquestionably a part of their happyacidhippie middle period.

First things first – this is a really REALLY good album. I have given it the shaft over the years, and I regret that. I can’t get behind Eric’s claim that it is better than Ambulance – in reality it doesn’t even compare. Despite being the same line-up, the sound is completely different. Something like “Hit Me Like You Did the First Time” sounds exactly like the upcoming Transmission sound. Donahue’s sound is far less obvious here, which makes sense considering he (and drummer Nathan Roberts) left after this was released.

What this album ends up being is a surprisingly unique sound in their catalogue. A song like “Gingerale Afternoon (The Astrology of a Saturday)” sounds just so unlike them in nearly every way. It’s the kind of thing that would fit in perfectly on a dozen Pitchfork-pimped albums to come out in the last year or two. But it is a great song in its unique un-Lips-y way. It captures this great sense of just limitless joy that the band has always had, but takes on a whole new meaning on their major label debut. This song more than any other on here seems to mark that the 9 minute heady, murky sound is (for now at least) over, replaced by a happy, smiling worldview that just makes you thrilled to be on the journey. Truly you feel that the sky’s the limit here, and that’s a great thought to have.

Of course, no discussion of this album would be complete without mentioning the *ahem* bonus track. 29 minutes of a 40 second discordant loop repeated again and again and again. I listened to it in its entirety when I first bought the album, and actually tried to do so again for this review, but gave up after 5 minutes. I hope you do not question my dedication. Lack of musical quality aside, this is a pretty amusing little way to toy with the CD format that was developing at the time, and I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that same mentality would eventually lead them to Zaireeka.

Next time: Beverly Hills 90210? Really?!

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