13 July, 2005



Will the fight for our sanityBe the fight of our lives?


The Flaming Lips have never played by anyone else's rules. In 1997, while Radiohead were dragging popular music kicking and screaming into the future with OK Computer, The Lips made even that masterpiece seem run-of-the-mill by creating Zaireeka - an album released on four CDs that could only be heard by playing all the discs simultaneously on four separate stereos in the same room. Needless to say, Zaireeka went largely unlistened-to. Two years later, Wayne Coyne and his Oklahoma partners-in-crime released what is arguably the pinnacle of their career to date: the complex, lush, cinematic work of symphonic-rock genius that is The Soft Bulletin.

From the catchy-yet-disturbing opener "Race For The Prize", via the hallucinogenic vastness of "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" to the blissful poppiness of "Buggin'", The Soft Bulletin is nothing short of genius, and without question one of the greatest albums of its decade. Featuring countless alternative-rock classics and peppered with hypnotically beautiful instrumentals, the album is nonetheless more than the sum of its parts. The cover-art reminiscent of a film-poster is oddly appropriate; this is a collection of tunes which seems - while not being a "concept" album as such - to form a cohesive whole, through the thematic reach of its lyrics and the consistently evocative effect of its music and production.

Indeed the work of producer Dave Fridman (producer to Mercury Rev, Jane's Addiction, Sparklehorse, Sleater Kinney, Mogwai, etc etc), is truly brilliant here - placing The Soft Bulletin up there with Dark Side Of The Moon and the aforementioned OK Computer among the best-produced albums of all time. Fridman and the band have created a breathtaking melange of instruments and sounds, blending electronic with organic to create a diverse and constantly suprising aural spectrum which swamps and swarms around the ears in tantalising use of the stereo format.

A sonic exploration of dark and twisted themes, a dynamic experiment in the potential of rock music, a soundtrack to the most humanist science-fiction film never made - this record sees The Flaming Lips enter a very exclusive club: the pantheon of true mad-geniuses of indie-rock. The Soft Bulletin is one of those rare albums that truly stand as aural beacons, illuminating the path that the music of the future will tread... at least we can only hope so.

5 (out of 5)




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