Thursday, August 22, 2013

Oh My Gawd!! -- The Flaming Lips -- Review

Oh My Gawd!! (1987)
Rating: 8
Best Song: One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning or the second half of Prescription: Love
Worst Song: Tracks 4 and 8 are equally forgettable -- take your pick

       Eh, it's better. As for how much better...well, I can't really say. This is definitely a more ambitious record than Hear It Is (although that isn't saying much), but I'm not sure how much these ambitions paid off. It seems that the band simply used this album as an opportunity to throw everything at the wall and see what stuck. And when I say "everything", I mean it -- sound collages, near-progressive epics, piano ballads, and all sorts of bizarre-o sonic trickery fill up this album. But all of this experimentation means nothing if the songs aren't any good...
       ...aaaaand for the most part, they.......are? Maybe? I'm really not sure. Most of the songs here strike a balance right on the VERY fine line between irritatingly mediocre and pleasantly mediocre, and at times I can't tell if I hate these songs or love them.
       But there are at least a few songs I can make some semi-definite judgment on. The track usually recognized as the album's big classic is the 9-minute "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning", and while I *like* it, I'm not quite as sold on it as everyone else seems to be. As every reviewer in existence feels the need to specify, the band is TOTALLY going for a late-60s Pink Floyd sound here, and while they certainly succeed in providing a successful imitation, I was never *that* crazy about late-60s Floyd to begin with. Besides, I'd rather listen to "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" than this anyway.
       But hey, I'm not all down on the song! The transition from the softer acoustic section to the grungy, rocking one is handled very well (and isn't it positively Lip-tastic that the big, epic phrase that signifies this big, epic transition is a conspiracy theory about explosives being planted in breakfast food?). Plus  the melody, while certainly not at a Drozd-level of memorability, is perfectly competent, and the riffage in the climactic section is really quite nice! Yeah, the track could be a minute or two shorter, but I would never skip it.
       Another track where my feelings are pretty clear is the closing "Love Yer Brain", where the band attempts to tackle the issue of drug addiction (at least, I think that's what it's about...) in an incredibly stupid manner via an "epic" piano ballad. The lyrics are vapid and completely forgettable, but the actual melody and chord progression is quite nice, and it makes for a fine closer.
       I have extremely divided feelings on "Prescription: Love", which makes sense -- it's an extremely divided song. The first half of the 6-minute track is a lengthy, guitar-driven intro that absolutely bores me to tears. The band bashes along for what seems like FOREVER, and I derive little-to-no enjoyment from this section. The second half, however, is an entirely different story. The band completely shifts gears from the noisy first part to something of a take on country-influenced 50s rockabilly, and it's positively glorious. The vocal melody is ridiculously happy and catchy, the lyrics are a load of fun (in addition to being REALLY clever and actually!?), and overall the track manages to put me into a GREAT mood every time it comes on. It's one of the greatest songs from the Lips' early epoch, and BY FAR the best thing they released pre-Priest. Heck, it even introduces that low-pitched vocal sound that the band ended up using so often throughout the 90s. If only the first half of the song was half as good....
       And well, that's about it, as far as clearly bad-or-good songs go. Everything else is just...mediocre. "Everything's Explodin'" is a decently fun rocker, "Ode to C.C. (Pt. 2)" is a decent acoustic ballad, and "Can't Stop the Spring" is another decent rocker that stands out only because it inexplicably samples "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". Decent, decent, decent.
       "The Ceiling is Bendin'" is beloved by many fans of the band, but I'm not quite sure why. It's got a decent tune, but when it's over the only things I can really remember about it are those twisted "Come on, come on" backing vocals and the incessant fading in-and-out. Meh. "Maximum Dream for Evel Knievel" is a song that feels like it should irritate me a lot more than it should (it strikes a strange sort of enjoyment for me as is), and "Can't Exist"...meh. It's slow and ultra-quiet, but it's pleasant enough for me to not entirely hate it. Same for "Thanks to You".
       So that's your album. It's definitely a more pleasant listen than its predecessor, and unlike Hear It Is, I might actually return to it even after I've written my review. So...yeah, consider this something of a recommendation. Heard all the band's 90s material? Begging for more early Lips? Yeah, check this out. So c'mon everybody -- LET'S GIVE LOVE A MARKETING SCAM!

(Note: as of now, I have no plans to purchase the band's third album, Telepathic Surgery, but from what I've read it's roughly comparable to these first two, as far as quality is concerned.)

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