Beginner's Guide To Being Unimpressed By The Flaming Lips


Ah, the Flaming Lips.

Has there been a luckier band in all of rock & roll?  The incriminating photos singer Wayne Coyne must have on Mo Ostin or Lenny Warnoker must be damning.  After all, what possible reason could there be for a huge media conglomerate to continue to fund the musical meanderings of this oddball Oklahoma band who have, for twenty years, created music that is so much better in premise than in execution.

Take 1997's four-CD Zaireeka; an album many may recall, but few have actually heard because it requires the listener to first off acquire four CD players and to then synchronize the playing of all four CD simultaneously to hear the album as intended.  Great concept, right?  But when you stop to consider how expensive it is for your average label to produce a four-CD set, much less your average listener to produce four working CD players at a moment's notice in order to hear the album , well, that's the Flaming Lips for you.

And that's to say nothing of the Gummy Song Skull, a USB drive containing four new songs encased within a brain-shaped gummy, itself encased within a plastic skull, that was avalaible for a measly $150.

See, the premise is cool.  Cool as hell, in fact, but, at the end of the day, the only real accomplishment is that the music becomes secondary, which is really no different than Kanye West cancelling a gig because his video and lighting equipment was damaged in a truck accident. See, a real musician doesn't need lights or gummy skulls when the music itself is capable of doing all the talking.

So when the interweb exploded last week over charges that Wayne Coyne's firing of drummer Kliph Scurlock was racially motivated, I did as much research on the topic as possible so as to reach my own conclusion, which is that the proverbial emperor has no clothes.  Of course, some of us have already known that.

From the moment that I played their first album on my radio show as a college DJ in 1986, I have been underwhelmed by the Flaming Lips.  Their transformation from a slightly goofy psych-rock indie punk band selling very few copies of their albums into a slightly goofy rock royalty selling very few copies of their albums has been a sight to behold, for sure.

It's actually amazing how little it takes for some people to call other people gods, or geniuses.  I've seen both words used quite a lot in reference to the Lips and all I can say is that some people just seem to need to worship something, ANYTHING, that all a fella like Wayne Coyne has to do is be in the right place at the right time and BLAMMO!  Rock God!

And, yes, I too have heard Soft Bulletin, an album that otherwise intelligent people refer to in terms so reverential that I can't help wonder if they weren't taking nips of water that Coyne himself turned to wine.  At best, it's a conventional album made by a superficially unconventional band, which equally superficial music fans seem to think is the cat's meow.

Much as I may have loved Frank Zappa as a person, let's face it, the real reason that "Valley Girl was such a hit wasn't because the song was so great, but that after 40 albums of overly self-indulgent wankery, Zappa had finally come up with something remotely palatable to the masses.  Of course, he did so by essentially making light of the very people who would ultimately like the song.

So when the interweb lit up like a Christmas tree with hundreds of Flaming Lips fans declaring their disappointment in Coyne and vowing to never listen to the band's music again, I couldn't help but laugh because, to make it at the major label level like the Lips have for the past three decades, you literally depend on these fair-weather fans in order to survive.  See, hardcore fans are great and all, but, despite those who would lead you to believe otherwise, there just aren't that many of them.

You, the artist, has to hope that the fair-weather fans (with money) will stick around as long as possible, inject their cold hard cash into your enterprise, and that by the time they decide to follow some other band, another fair-weather fan will arrive to take their place.

As for Coyne treating his drummer poorly, how is this a story?  If half the folks who claim to adore Sting knew half the derogatory shit he's sad to Stewart Copeland over the years, they'd chuck their copies of Brand New Day in the nearest trash can.

For those who want true weirdness, out-of-the-box genius, and uncompromising musical integrity that just happened to be funded by Warner Bros., that stack of unwanted Lips CD's down to your local used record store and trade 'em in for some Ween or Built To Spill.  Trust me now, thank me later.

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