Sunday, June 9, 2013

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots -- The Flaming Lips -- Review

A painting of the backside of a girl facing a pink robot
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
Rating: 12
"The sun's eclipsed behind the clouds"
Best Song: Are You a Hypnotist??
Worst Song: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2

       A pseudo-sequel to Soft BulletinYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots follows up on the synth-based style of its predecessor, but in an entirely different way. Whereas Bulletin was mainly comprised of massive, orchestral progressive anthems, Yoshimi tends to play it a bit closer to the vest. It's a very subtle album, filled with songs that sound VERY samey and somewhat dull on first listen and then gradually proceed to grow on the listener. This is actually slightly odd, since on the surface these songs are far more simple and poppy than the ones on Soft Bulletin. Heck, most follow a simple "verse-chorus-verse-chorus" structure and include rather straightforward melodies!
       Of course, there are a handful of songs that have more progressive leanings. "One More Robot" features a nice contrast between mellow, laid-back verses and a busier, synth-filled  chorus, not to mention some wonderful bass lines and an awesome vocal melody (albeit one that takes a few listens to get good). The song then finishes with a lovely, wistful instrumental entitled "Sympathy 3000-21" that's absolutely fantastic; it manages to capture all the wonder and emotion of any given instrumental on The Soft Bulletin in about a minute and a half.
       Also progressive in nature is the MARVELOUS "In the Morning of the Magicians". Alternating between an epic instrumental section and a gentle, swaying ballad, the track continues the band's streak of awe-inspiring songs about love in wondrous, star-gazing fashion. However, other than these two tracks, one would be hard-pressed to call any of the songs on this album "progressive". No, the rest of the album is composed of songs like "Fight Test", which is just a simple pop song...BUT WOTTA SIMPLE POP SONG. The "I don't know where the sunbeams end..." hook in the chorus combined with those endlessly memorable keyboard riffs and interlocking rhythms is simply synth-pop heaven. 
       And the title track is even better! The vocal melody's practically perfect, the electronic layering of acoustic guitars is unforgettable, and the lyrics are completely adorable. How can you not love a song about a vitamin-swallowing Chinese girl saving humanity from people-eating robots???
       And speaking of lyrics...geez, lyrically this has to be their best album ever. Obviously there's their most famous song ever, the uplifting, cathartic hymn "Do You Realize??", but that's not the only one with some great poetry behind it. "It's Summertime" rides the same basic theme to similar effect, and "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell" has my favorite Lips lyrics ever (although the recent "Be Free, A Way" comes close; "Did God make pain so we could know the high that nothing is?" is spectacularly crushing), with a story of letting life and love pass you by just because you keep holding out for the perfect opportunity. And remarkably, the track does this with an EXTREMELY small amount of actual lyrics. It's minimalistic writing at its finest.
       And the music on "Ego Tripping" is no slouch either! The falsetto backing vocals ("I must have been trip-piiiiiiiiiiin'"), the killer bass line, Wayne's dreamy vocal melody, the recorder that's subtly soloing over the whole track from the second verse-onwards...gosh, these guys were so skilled at arrangements at this point in their career!!! 
       But none of that compares to the album's true high point. I am speaking, of course, of the brilliant "Are You a Hypnotist". After an entire album of carefully constructed drum machine-programming, Drozd is finally allowed to let loose (albeit in a digitized manner) over some lovely, regal synths and one of the band's best vocal melodies. And then there's the chorus, of which words can do no justice. Many have made the "Brain Damage" comparison before, and they're quite right -- "The sun eclipsed behind the clouds" sounds in context nearly as chill bump-inducing as "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon". Alas, if only the album had been named Behind the Cloud, or some such...
       The rest of the tracks are relatively uneventful, in my opinion, but they're all perfectly listenable and for the most part, extremely pleasant overall. No, it's not as great as The Soft Bulletin, but it's not too far off, and the more you listen, the closer it gets. It's not quite perfect, but I still love it to bits, if only because it both completely satisfies my catchiness quota AND makes me feel tiny and want to look up at the universe above me shouting questions that are simultaneously deep and ridiculously silly. WHAT IS LOVE AND WHAT IS HATE?!? DOOOO YOOOOU REALIIIIIZE THAT YOU HAAAAAVE THE MOOOOST BEAUUUTIFUL FAAACE?? IS IT WRONG TO THINK IT'S LOOOOOOVE WHEN IT TRIES THE WAY IT DOES?? The Flaming Lips, everybody. Gotta love 'em.

No comments:

Post a Comment