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The Soft Bulletin

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Editors’ Notes

When The Soft Bulletin was released in 1999, The Flaming Lips were best-known as the freaky experimental troupe responsible for the leftfield hit "She Don't Use Jelly". This album changed all that. Keeping company with epics like Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper's, Bulletin overflows with gorgeous melodies, orchestral flourishes and sweetly psychedelic imagery. Frontman Wayne Coyne emerges from his trickster chrysalis a cherubic butterfly, pouring his heart into songs like "Waitin' for a Superman" and "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate".

Customer Reviews

An amazing album! ... But the best was yet to come

I’m of the opinion that with most bands, if they’re going to release anything truly inspiring and influential it will be in an early stage of their career. Acts that have been around for 15 years have usually either disappeared into obscurity, or have become complacent and boring due to success. I think that all a band that has been around that long can hope for is to continue releasing albums of half-decent quality. They can ask to release the best record of their career – but it just aint gonna happen.

Well, I mean to say that it aint gonna happen … often.

The Flaming Lips on the other hand, who have been around since the early 80’s, managed to destroy that theory in 1999 with the Soft Bulletin. To be honest they were pretty ordinary when they first started. The impression you get from their first recordings is of a bunch of enthusiastic, but not necessarily talented punks with a passion for prog rock and a few good ideas. But they managed to improve steadily with every release, and had a couple of leaps forward like 1990’s Priest Driven Ambulance. The playing got better (helped by a few line up changes – most notably the recruiting of current drummer Steve Drozd), Wayne’s voice improved, and his bizzare navel-gazing lyrics became more focused and less naïve sounding – to the point where they became one of the most interesting and effective elements of the whole package. The creativity and originality factor also seemed to increase, while somehow managing to sound less “being weird for the sake of it”.

Still it wasn’t till the band decided to put the guitars away (or at least not rely on them so heavily) that they unlocked their true potential. And it only took two near death experiences, the resignation of their talented guitarist, and a whole lot of “parking lot experiments” to get there!! (You can read about that elsewhere).

The album is impressively layered with an array of conventional rock instruments, orchestral sounds, and sound effects. It still sounds unique today, and it never sounds over-produced or pompous. In fact it comes across as an energetic ball of enthusiasm, especially with tracks like "Race for the Prize" and "Bugs". The band seems genuinely excited by the new direction, and you can feel them urging you to celebrate life with them!

I think sometimes people look at my tastes in music and art and assume that I’m quite a depressed person, or at least get a bit of a kick out of being gloomy. My explanation though is that I’m not very good at accepting a feel good kind of story if there is no acknowledgement of the existence of a darker side to life. I mean, I listen to a saccharine pop song by Britney Spears or watch one of the more braindead romantic comedies around, and it just doesn’t feel like the real world. In fact, if I am feeling a little cynical or disappointed with the world it just feels an insult – like rubbing salt into the wound.

However, if you tell me, “Hey the world’s pretty screwed up, but we can over come it!” – then you’re going to get my attention … and that’s exactly what the Flaming Lips excel at. In fact it’s pretty much what Soft Bulletin is all about. Words like “fight” and “battle” are strewn throughout the album, and although it’s never really spelled out exactly what we’re fighting against (perhaps just the pain of living) it’s clear that we’re going to win. The whole album comes across as a bit of a battle cry, with Wayne calling out for us to join him in living life to the fullest … because as some other band once said, all we need is love.

…. Oh, and there’s also a cool song about bugs getting in your hair.

The Flaming Lips at their best

Few albums capture me like this. As soon as I hear the first few seconds of Race for the prize it's impossible to shut the album off! A must for music fans!

Biography

Formed: 1983 in Oklahoma City, OK

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Even within the eclectic world of alternative rock, few bands were so brave, so frequently brilliant, and so deliciously weird as the Flaming Lips. From their beginnings as Oklahoma weirdos to their mid-'90s pop culture breakthrough to their status as one of the most respected groups of the 2000s, the Lips rode one of the more surreal and haphazard career trajectories in pop music. An acid-bubblegum band with as much affinity for sweet melodies as blistering noise assaults, their off-kilter sound,...
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