Tag Archives: The Flaming Lips

Flaming Lips & Tame Impala Collide On “Children of The Moon”

In my review of the latest Tame Impala album, LONERISM, I noted that Tame Impala sounded a bit like Oklahoma freak-rockers The Flaming Lips.  I think that both bands share a common 60’s-LSD-Beatleband strand of DNA, but what would happen if the two bands were to meet?  Would a rainbow-colored funnel of sunshine spew trippy death all over existence? Or would they just make a  really nice song?

The Flaming Lips are good at a lot of things, but spelling is not one of those things.

Turns out they’d just make a really nice song.  The Flaming Lips put out an album of collaborations this year called THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS (sic) which features Tame Impala.  The song, “Children of The Moon,” might not be as epic of mind-blowing as one would hope…but it is really good.

The song leans more towards the Australian rockers mellow-gold rather than The Lip’s more purple nurple sound.  Still, you can definitely hear how The Flaming Lips magnified Tame Impala’s more understated vibe (to great effect I think).

Check it out:

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“Drug Chart” by The Flaming Lips

Ever since I saw The Flaming Lips on Sunday night, I’ve been obsessed with their song, “Drug Chart.”  The song was a mystery to me at the show, so afterwords I did a little research and found out the song was part of their Gummy Skull series.  Part awesome limited-edition packaging, part thumbing of the proverbial-nose at modern music distribution, The Flaming Lips put out some songs on a USB encased in a life-sized candy replica of a human skulls.   They’ve been charging a few hundred bucks  per skull and only made a small quantity, which is super-cool if you were a bit well-off and able to buy one.  I’d heard of this project, but didn’t realized they’d been doing it for more than one song release.  Apparently they put out a bunch of music this way back in 2011.

“To listen, or not to listen…that is your question!”

Thus, the reason I was totally bewildered by “Drug Chart” on Sunday, was because it was a very limited released song.  It’s a strange song and an even stranger choice for the band to play live (especially at a festival).  The song opens with a hypnotic drum roll and anemic baseline.  Just when you’re nice and lulled, Wayne starts coo-ing about a litany of drugs, including marijuana and crystal meth.  Does that sound incredibly stupid to you?  It kinda is…but for some reason, I fucking love this song.  I can’t even explain why I love, because I can barely understand it.

The mysterious quality to the song is appealing.  But it’s more than that.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I wish I could read the lyrics, but alas I have been unable to find them online (I will be your best friend forever if you find them).  I guess it’s just as well, I’m sure I’d be disappointed if I was able to decode the song properly.  For now I’m content to let the mystery wash over me: I’ve been listening to it on repeat and enjoying the rush.

If you’re a bit of a freak, youu can listen to the song:

And if you decided you want to take multiple “trips” like I’ve been doing…you can go here and download the whole thing for free, along with all the other Gummy Skull songs. You can even download the song “7 Skies H3” a 24-song(!).

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LouFest 2012: Day #2 Wrap-Up

The second day of LouFest was almost dangerously-loaded with bands I wanted to see. Not that I wasn’t stoked about seeing the Day 1 bands, but the second half of the festival was wall-to-wall acts I was dying to see. Taking many of the lessons we learned from Day #1, my wife and I headed down to Forest Park with folding chairs and a change of clothes. Change of clothes? Yep, despite the bevy of awesome bands before us there was darkness literally looming on the horizon. With a 50% chance of rain, we knew we were gonna get wet…little did we realize just how wet we were going to get.

Day #2 started (for us) around 2-ish. We skipped the first two bands and started the day with fellow Missourians Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (SSLYBY). I have SSLYBY’s first album, BROOM, but I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan. They do have a very pleasant indie pop-rock sound somewhat akin to something off the early Weezer albums. As we set up our little chairs, we also popped in ear plugs. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I used ear plugs, but after standing close to the (way too loud) Dinosaur Jr. stage the day before, I still had a lingering ringing in the ears. When given the choice between looking/being cool or retaining my hearing, I’ll choose my hearing every time. Still, it felt like a very old man thing to do. My friend Mark randomly stopped by and made me feel better about using them*.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

SSLYBY were about as good as they are on their records, which isn’t really a compliment or a criticism, it’s just a fact. I wish I could muster some feeling for them one way or the other, but I can’t. They did play my two favorite songs of theirs, “Sink/Let It Sway” and the uber-fantastic “Pangea.” Up next was a band I’d never heard of, Wild Nothing. The band, who hails from Virginia, has a pleasant, slightly 80’s-ish pop sound. We didn’t move over to their stage, but what I heard wafting across the field was pretty good. They’re definitely a band I plan on checking out on Spotify.

The day’s first disappointment was Cults. I was really looking forward to seeing the guy-girl rockers. I was hoping they’d show up with White Stripes-style two-person set-up, but instead they came with a full band. And while that made them sound fuller (and more like the album) it kinda bummed me out. They played, among other things, their most popular song “Outside” and a pretty cool Leonard Cohen cover, “Everybody Knows.” Lead singer Maeline Follin was cute in her little white dress, and the music was solid–but they just didn’t do it for me. I was hoping they’d show some chutzpah, instead I felt Cults played it pretty safe.

Cults & Crew

After Cults it was time for Dawes, a band I was really looking forward to seeing. Dawes hand’t even shown up on my radar until a few weeks ago when I was messing around on a message board for Warren Zevon fans where they were mentioned as having Zevon-like qualities. Dawes has a vibe that’s closer to Jackson Browne in my mind than his friend Zevon, but they have some Zevonian tendencies. What I really like about them, though is that how they have that carefree, California sound but also seem really down-to-Earth. When the band took the stage, the storm clouds that had been threatening us all day somehow managed to get even scarier. Living in tornado country, summer thunder storms are taken pretty seriously here, so it was both a relief and a bit unnerving when the band announced they’d play until “they were told to stop.” Call me crazy, but I always think it’s a bad idea to trust money men/bean counter’s with my life. Anyway, it started to lightly rain during Dawes’ set, but we still got to hear a lot of really good tunes. My favorites of the set were “Fire Away,” “When My Time Comes,” and my personal favorite “A Little Bit of Everything.” The set was good but cut short by a downpour of rain.

Evil clouds lurked behind the Magical Mystery Horn.

Running across the field in the rain, my wife and I were able to take shelter under one of the few picnic table umbrellas they festival had mercifully set up. We found ourselves huddled with a handful of young (but grizzled) festival goers. As we watched the rain fall, they enlightened us on the art of sneaking drugs and alcohol into concerts. One particularly devious trick they shared involved using hot water to reseal a vodka-filled Dasani bottle. Checking our iPhones, we saw that the festival had been “postponed indefinitely.” With $70 (a piece) tied-up in the day’s tickets, and nowhere really else to go, we bravely waited for the rain to stop. When it did, we were all thoroughly drenched. The umbrella had become so thoroughly drenched that the water was able to pass right through it. There were kids slip n’ sliding through the mud and chicks going sans shirts. It was actually pretty rad.

Dawes…please excuse the crappy photo but it was scary outside.

Then word got out, via Facebook, that the last two musical acts would indeed play, and there was much rejoicing. We set-up near the Dr. Dog stage, determined to finish the festival. I really loved Dr. Dog’s debut album, but a lack of funds kept me from really getting into their music when I was in college. At the time they came out, the band seemed poised to follow a path to breakout success much like the Kings of Leon. Alas, that breakout never came and I always wondered why. Though I wondered, I never really caught back up with the band’s output, to see what they were up to. Dr. Dog’s sound is a throw-back to classic rock bands with a backwoods sensibility, like The Band and Gram Parsons. I had high hopes for the band’s LouFest appearance, but the deck was stacked against them: we were soaked and Wayne Coyne was on the other stage periodically rushing out and confetti-bombing the crowd while the band’s crew set-up. As I watched Dr. Dog play, I kept seeing people turn and look over at The Lips’ stage. Once the The Flaming Lips techs were testing the band’s laser, there was a small exodus over to where The Flaming Lips would play at 8:00. I’d never seen a Flaming Lips show, but I knew the legends–and I knew we had to abandon Dr. Dog so that we could get as close as possible.

I changed into some dry clothes, took a piss, bought a beer, and then hunkered down in the hippie-fest that is a Flaming Lips crowd. Though it was dark and drizzly, it was impossible to miss the cloud of pot smoke hovering near the stage. There were kids dressed like X-Men and Astronauts, chicks with balloon animal hats, face paint: basically all your typical Flaming Lips freaks. The show started, the clouds parted, and The Flaming Lips bombared the crowd with streamers, confetti, massive ballons, and super-trippy music. Oh, the music was trippy. The band opened with “Race for the Prize” which was so sun-shiny-super that it banished all memory of the terribly cold rain. The band’s stage show is the stuff of legend, and I’m here to tell you: it’s all true. The confetti blizzard, the strange characters (giant rabbits stalking through the crowd), Wayne climbing in the plastic ball and running over the crowd, the lasers…it’s all true.

Wayne in a ball.

Do you remember that scene in MAN ON THE MOON when Jim Carrey (as Andy Kaufman) has that big show at Carnegie Hall at the end? The one where he keeps up-ing the sweetness ante, until by the end of the show he has Santa Claus come out and everyone gets on a bus to enjoy milk and cookies? That’s what a Flaming Lips show is like. It’s much, much weirder, but the band projects that child-like joy/everything is possible feeling. The Flaming Lips are one of those bands that somehow never got the memo that irony is “in” and sincerity is “out.” I truly believe that Wayne Coyne thinks that all one needs is peace, love, and drugs. He could just be a really good actor, but I doubt it. In today’s musical clime I find that sincerity to be very refreshing.

The Flaming Lips perform “Laser Hands.”

The band played the awesome “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and everyone was feeling super-groovy. I expected them to continue playing light, cotton-candy festival fare but things took a darker, more obscure turn. The band played a couple of gloomy songs back-to-back. Well, they were gloomy for The Flaming Lips…which means there was still giant foam hands that shot multi-colored lights at a massive disco ball. Their newer stuff is more creepy electronica than it is trippy psych-pop, which is what I expected them to play. The band ended the dark part of their set with a strange song called “Drug Chart” which I had never even heard of. Things became more upbeat as the band finished up with “What is the Light?” before closing with the awesome “Do You Realize??”

“All You Need Is Love” and huge balls of confetti.

“Do You Realize??” is The Flaming Lips version of “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude.” It’s a simple, but powerful, song that manages to walk the line between very happy and very sad. I did not expect them to play this song (even though it is so popular) because they seemed to be digging a bit deeper than the typical festival setlist of “hits”. It was a tremendously upbeat way to end a 2 day festival mired by by weather. It was awesome seeing The Flaming Lips live and I would recommend to anyone reading this: if you get a chance to see them do not hesitate, do it. You will not regret it.

The second day was quite the adventure. I had a lot of fun at LouFest 2012 and hope the organizers can continue to grow this fledgling festival into something with staying power. If the line-up next year is HALF as killer as this year’s I’ll definitely be buying tickets. If the bands aren’t as good I think I might volunteer and see it for free. Anyone want to pour water or sort through recycling with me?

*My friend Mark is a bit like Gandalf from LORD OF THE RINGS in that he tends to show up only when he is truly needed. And like Gandalf, he can never stay for very long. There is no doubt a trilogy’s worth of material on what the hell he does when he isn’t  in the main tale.

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LouFest 2012: Day #1 Wrap-UP

I’ve never before attended a festival concert.  That’s kinda strange considering how much I love live music, right?  Well here in the States, festivals aren’t quite as common as over in say, Europe.  In fact, the festivals we have here are pretty damn tame by comparison.  Back in their heyday, I remember seeing footage of Oasis shows overseas that had larger attendance than the population of my hometown.  I live in a mediuml-large American city, St. Louis, and though we are a college town, we really don’t get very many massive music festivals (I don’t count traveling travesties like Van’s Warped Tour or Oz Fest). However, thanks to a relatively new festival (this is the third year) St. Louis finally has a rock festival worth talking about.

Forest Park is the jewel of St. Louis.  That’s where our zoo and art gallery is located (both are free, both are awesome).  It’s a special place where St. Louis goes to return to nature and relax.  It’s also where I was married a few years back.  A festival concert located with the park is a great idea, and since I live within walking distance of the park (and I love rock) I decided to buy two day passes.  The bands this year are pretty good, I think.  This year’s headliners are Flaming Lips, Girl Talk, Dr. Dog, and Dinosaur Jr. Of the 16 bands performing this weekend, I’ve only see one live before–I saw Dr. Dog at an awesome, free in-store event at Vintage Vinyl many years ago (someday I’ll write a post about that with the footage I shot).

Anyway, I went down to the park right when the box office opened at noon to pick up our wrist bands (the Mrs. was along for this adventure).  Getting their super-early was nice because it gave us an opportunity to scope out the various vendors that had set-up shop.  Probably the best vendor was local record shop Euclid Records little “Festival Store.”  They had a nice fat stack of CD’s and *gasp* vinyl records for sale, representing all the bands on the line-up.  Other vendors of note were Sony, who had a PS3 mega-rig and Spotify (the killer-music service) had a big green bus where they were presumably trying to explain what the heck Spotify is.

Euclid Records Festival Store. Schweet shwag.

There was also a lot of really cool local restaurants and bars who’d come out to set up a little vending stall.  The place was a ghost town because it was so early so we took our leave until later that afternoon when around 4:00.  I felt bad skipping all the early Saturday bands, but I knew that because the majority of bands I wanted to see play tomorrow, I decided we’d better take it easy on Saturday.  After all, I’m getting to be a pretty old dude.

The skies, which earlier in the day had been bright and cheery, had taken on a nasty gray hue.  While we waited for alt-country dudes Son Volt to take the stage, the sky unleashed a ten-minute deluge.  Earlier it had been hot, now we were chilled to the bone with cold rainwater.  Such is life here in the midwest.  Anyway, it continued to drizzle off and on all night, but for the most part the major rain was over just before Son Volt came on.  I’d never really heard much Son Volt, but I found them to be pretty awesome.  As I get older, I find myself liking alt-county more and more.  With just enough (read: not too much) twang, I really enjoyed them.  The beginning of their set featured a lot of simple love songs, which I thought were the best.  My favorite was “Dynamite” of  their album AMERICAN CENTRAL DUST.  Another song I really liked was “Windfall” which struck me as being a bit Neil Young-ish. As they neared the end of their set list, the songs got a bit political/environmental, and I didn’t like them as much as the love songs.  Still, I thought the band put on a great show and helped provide some variety to the days music.

Son Volt, putting a little twang in LouFest.

The next band was Dinosaur Jr.  Now I don’t know much about Dinosaur Jr., but I did enjoy their last album FARM when it came out a few years ago.  I especially liked their song “Ocean In The Way” off that record.  Did Dinosaur Jr. play that song? I honestly don’t know.  I don’t know because the band was so loud it was pretty difficult to tell. The band was surrounded by a fat stack of Marshall amps. To say that Dinosaur Jr. was loud is a terrible, terrible understatement.  They played their entire set at volume that can only be described as “Stupid Loud.”  Watching them, a trio of aging hipsters, was actually kind of magical.  The band seemed to spin a sonic cocoon around themselves.  Washing themselves and the audience in layers of eagle-scream guitar solos and a blizzard of effect pedal wah-wah, Dinosaur Jr. seemed to transcende age.  They played with the daring and the viciousness of  much younger men.  I won’t use the term possessed, but it did seem as though something overcame them, particularly J. Mascis.  Mascic, who looks eerily like Gandalf, whipped his long white hair life a madman, it was fantastic. Unfortunately, the sound system was cranked so loud that the only song I could pick out with any certainty was their epic “Feel The Pain.”  As their most famous song, it was met with a cheer from the mixed-age crowd (there was everything from toddlers to 60+).

Dinosaur Jr. in the middle of making me deaf.

After Dinosaur Jr. finished their sonic assault on my eardrums, it was time for the evening’s headliner…Girl Talk.  Now, I’ve written about my rather mixed feelings towards Girl Talk before, so I won’t re-open that can of worms.   But for those that don’t know, Girl Talk is really just one dude, DJ Greg Gillis, who illegally samples the shit of the pop music songbook (without paying or asking for permission).  What sort of live “performance” could there really be for an act with such a schtick?  Well it was about what I expected: a nerdy white dude with a laptop, confetti cannons, balloons, toilet paper blowers, and a wall of LCD screens.  And yet, Girl Talk’s show was fun and funky, and it was just the palate cleanser one needed after the heaviness of Dinosaur Jr. The samples came fast and furious, and despite myself (and how tired I was) I found myself dancing.  Or at least, the closest approximation a fat music blogger can do.

LouFest “Orange” stage.

Overall, day one of LouFest was awesome.  My legs ache and my ears are ringing.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.

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Gringo Star vs. Ringo Deathstarr

Last night I went on a Magical Mystery Tour deep within the bowels of Spotify.   I do this thing I call “band hopping” where I’ll listen to something and then let Spotify recommend something.  After I’m done listening to that I let it recommend something to me based on THAT song…pretty soon I’m completely and utterly lost.  I wish I could remember what led me to down the weird rabbit-hole of bands named in honor of ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, I bet the trajectory of songs was pretty interesting, but alas…I was in offline mode and my listens were not recorded.

But I digress.  The important thing is there are two really awesome rock bands with Ringo-inspired names.  The first of these bands that I happened upon was Atlanta-based Gringo Star.  What do you think of when you read that name?  I bet you think Gringo Star is a Beatles-inspired pop-rock band, right? I know that’s what I was thinking.  Turns out Gringo Star is a really cool rock band with some British-invasion influences, but mostly is a bit like the UK’s Supergrass.  The band’s latest album COUNT YER LUCKY STARS is a pretty tight collection of rock songs with a lot of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.”**

I’m counting ’em…

The album opener “Shadow” invokes both the aforementioned Supergrass as well as Oasis, Blur, with just a hint of Dr. Dog (great harmonies).  The album is full of great songs, but I really like the spanish-influenced “Esmerelda” and the dreamy album-closer “Mexican Coma.”  That last song in particular sounds like it could have been a hit in 1966 by song little-know, post-Beatles invasion-era rock band.  I can almost see the vinyl copy of “Mexican Coma” by The Mudd Turtles or some such thing. It’s a really nice summer chill-out song, with a super-cool guitar solo.  But the song the changed my lust to love was “Got It,” which sounds like an early Kinks single.  It’s got a real nice, super-catchy hook that just digs into your brain and won’t let go.  Right now “Got It” is near the top of the list of best songs I’ve heard this summer (woah! It’s only June) .

From Gringo Star I ended up listening to a band called Ringo Deathstarr.  As far as jokey names go, Ringo Deathstarr beats Gringo Star hands-down.  Besides having the proper number of “R’s” in “Starr” the band’s name is also a freaking STAR WARS pun.

Super-washed out colours.

Now Ringo Deathstarr is a COMPLETELY different animal.  For one thing, their album COLOUR TRIP is more acid/reverb drenched than Gringo Star’s super-crisp rock.  Hailing from Texas, Ringo Deathstarr sounds a bit like The Flaming Lips by way of The Cure.  The band is a girl-and-guy “shoegaze” band that I have to reluctantly admit to being a sucker for. COLOUR TRIP opens with the spaced out “Imagine Hearts” which is a joyous bit of pop.  The album’s best track is “So High,” which sounds how a whacked-out day at the beach feels.  The gentle “Other Things” closes the album with bittersweet introspection.  It’s the kind of song that’s easy to get lost inside.  Some bands exist in space and other create it, and Ringo Deathstarr definitely create their own space–COLOUR TRIP is best enjoyed alone with headphones.  

Both bands (and albums) are pretty awesome, and despite sharing similarities in their name they’re pretty far apart sonically.  For me, Gringo Star has the better songs and Ringo Deathstarr has the better vibes.  Is that a cop-out? I guess, but it’s really like comparing apples to oranges.  Check ’em both out and tell me what you think.

FOOTNOTES:

**TANGENT: I think that modern music needs more “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.”  Go back and listen to music, from all genres, of the last 50 years and you’ll hear a ton of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.”  But with only a few notable exceptions, COUNT YER LUCKY STARS being one of them, I can’t recall very many bands/albums today that use “ooh’s” and “ahh’s.”

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