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Date: Thu 20 Apr, 2006 at 15:37
Headline: What's Out There: The Flaming Lips

Greetings & Salutations!

Getting excited about tomorrow night's gig. Rehearsals have been getting smoother. The songs are tightening up. I'm finally getting my fingers to work the way they're supposed to.

Just finished watching Any Given Sunday this morning, for the first time in a few years. Damn...I forgot just how much I love this movie. It pumps me up like few films can, partly because I always seem to be able to relate it to what we're doing in the band. I wonder if anyone would actually dig my reciting the "inches" speech before we hit the stage tomorrow night?, probably not. Nevermind.

Where was I? Oh, yes: The Flaming Lips.

Now, I fully admit that I'm waaaaaay late to the party on this one, considering how long they've been around. I've been reading reviews and exposes on them for years and always found their approach and outlook intriguing, but somehow never got around to hearing the actual music. That changed a few weeks ago, when they made an appearance on Letterman to perform "The Yeah Yeah Song," from their new album At War With The Mystics. The band was costumed and quirky, and that's Ok if you like that sort of thing, but what really knocked me out was the quality of the songwriting. Groups that have as avante-garde of a reputation as this one don't often have strong hooks in them as well, but this is a great little slice of earnest weirdo-pop.

A week or so later, I caught them on Austin City Limits, of all things. Very unusual combination of artist and venue; they weren't entirely preaching to the converted and one could tell that some of the folks in the audience had no idea what to make of this band. The gig was even more shot through with over the top visual and theatrical gimmicks than the relatively stripped-down performance on Letterman. Some of them worked (the lead singer emoting through a hand puppet for one tune; inviting the guitarist's elderly father on stage to play sax on a rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow") and some were train-wreck incarnate (their anemic version of "War Pigs"....Cat Power, my ass) but I had to admire the verve and openness with which they presented it all. Unlike a lot of artists who rely on such elements in overreaching attempts to be confrontational and intimidating, the Lips seemed more interested in welcoming the crowd into their world, and that was refreshing to see.

Having seen enough to know I was interested, I decided to actually grab some of the music, starting with the latest album. It's maybe a little more laid-back than I would have preferred after hearing the first single, but a sonic feast nonetheless. I liken it to Steve Vai's Flex-Able thrown in a blender with Ben Folds' Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner and served with a side dish of Barret-era Floyd...if that makes any sense whatsoever. I liked it enough to start working backwards, so I'll probably be grabbing Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots or The Soft Bulletin (which seem to be their two most widely acclaimed platters) before too long.

All-original gig tomorrow night! Premiere of new tunes! The "Mr Serious" single available in shiny CD form! We claw for that inch! BE THERE!!!