Monday, September 2, 2013

Hear It Is -- The Flaming Lips -- Review

Hear It Is (1986)
Rating: 6
"All I know is that my mind is blown / When I'm with you"
Best Song: Trains, Brains, and Rain
Worst Song: Who knows?

       From humble beginnings...very humble beginnings. That's right, folks, the Lips started out with less of a bang, and more of a whimper. This is their Pablo Honey; an embarrassing first effort that has little-to-no resemblance to their later, far greater albums. At this point in their career, the band was nothing more than an Oklahoma-based indie-punk trio making noisy little records in a glorified garage. The production is startlingly empty, the songwriting is weak, and literally the only similarity between this and later Lips records is Wayne's voice. In short -- no, this is not The Soft Bulletin
       The album starts off decently enough, with the opening trio of songs being among the best the album has to offer. "Unplugged" is a decent uptempo number with a cool surf-rock riff (although the vocal melody is fairly awful), and the opening "With You" has a nice alternation between its gentle acoustic verses and rocking chorus. The best thing here is probably "Trains, Brains, and Rain", a fun rocker with a surprisingly full arrangement. The combination of multi-tracked backing vocals, 80s production values, and both acoustic and electric guitars actually reminds me of Lifes Rich Pageant-era R.E.M., and that's definitely a compliment. No, it's certainly not a "Begin the Begin" or "These Days", but it isn't too much worse than something like "Hyena". It's fun!
       Elsewhere you'll find "Just Like Before", a surprisingly cool rocker with a rather memorable vocal melody, and the nifty acoustic ballad "Godzilla Flick", which is...alright. And everything else? Mehhhhh. "Jesus Shooting Heroin" has a blasphemous title, but not much else of interest. Wayne's singing is irritating, the backing vocals are irritating, that head-bashingly simple riff in the chorus is irritating...and why does it have to wind on for over seven minutes?!?!?
       "Charlie Manson Blues", "Staring at Sound", and "Man from Pakistan" are all woefully unmemorable, headache-inducing rockers (although the tribal chanting in "Charlie Manson" is admittedly a nice touch), and "She is Death" is nothing more than an extremely boring acoustic ballad with no real reason to exist. Yawn.
       And that's not even mentioning that all of these songs become even worse when placed in context. This is a ridiculously painful album to listen to in one sitting -- nearly all the songs sound very samey and none of them really stand out, leading to an album that's sadly quite a bit worse than the sum of its parts. If you really like Oh My Gawd!! I suppose you might wanna try this, but I really can't picture anyone enjoying this very much. 

1 comment:

  1. "Telepathic Surgery" is hardly a great album (in fact, I might even consider it their worst overall), but if you're interested in the Lips' development you HAVE to hear "Chrome Plated Suicide". Total classic song, IMO