Tag Archives: the flaming lips

Okraschoten und kraut

Can have recently delved into their studio archives to assemble The Lost Tapes. It’s not been received as an unqualified success; however, the mere existence of reviews of it in the broadsheets will hopefully serve to remind people of just how great, and important, Can at their prime were. I’ve written previously about Tago Mago, their first album with the deranged vocalist Damo Suzuki; now comes the turn of its follow-up Ege Bamyasi, released in 1972 and also a handy favourite of Nick Kent‘s. Continue reading Okraschoten und kraut

The Sound of failure

I’ve been watching the new Sam Bain/Jesse Armstrong vehicle, Fresh Meat, and almost wishing I could relive my undergraduate years. You’re not supposed to think that—not if you’re a recent graduate, in a stable job—but, then again, my three years at the LSE were atypical to say the least, and I do sometimes wish I could go back and do things differently: live on a campus; not fear for your reputation; hang loose a little.

This feeling of nostalgia for the unremembered made me think of two songs by The Flaming Lips, which showcase the Oklahoma trio at their most bittersweet. Both appear on At War With The Mystics, a more guitar-led record which is also adorned by the most overpowering studio confectionery. “The Sound of Failure / It’s Dark… Is It Always This Dark??” is saccharine, but not in the “overly sweet sense”. Rather, I refer to the sentimentality at the core of this seven-minute song, which weaves in and out of a spare, Spanish-sounding melody, over which Wayne Coyne plays the part of a lovesick troubadour. The more maximal parts are draped in flutes and a rather odd, plaintive chord sequence played on a pleading electric guitar. At the song’s climax, vocal harmonies escape as emissions from celestial bodies, before it ebbs back into the original semi-acoustic figure, with Coyne doing his Neil Young impression. The final minute is a gently interminable passage, with twinkly synths backing rather New Age flute. Think of the whole thing as flower power’s answer to Justin Timberlake’s “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows“.

A little later in the album, we get “Mr. Ambulance Driver“, whose verses could fit right in on The Soft Bulletin. Coyne is self-deprecating, and the gently brushed guitar wash over muffled Rhodes piano. The chorus rides in on the titular ambulance’s siren, with a few tentative shoves of overdriven Rhodes and Hammond. A rarity on this album, there are no instrumental outros or ponderous codas—just verse chorus verse chorus bridge extended-chorus—but it’s lovingly assembled and so heartfelt. The guitars aren’t processed through Dave Fridmann‘s digestive tract, for a change, the lyrics are starry-eyed rather than cosmic, and it knows when to end.

These are the songs that we turn to when we are gripped by a sense of longing for that which we cannot readily retrieve.

Songs of 2009 – Out of the limelight.

I’m not going to do a list of my favourite songs of 2009 because that would be boring and unoriginal, and chances are you’ve probably read about the exact same songs in a million other places. Instead, here’s my playlist containing fifteen album tracks, none of which were released as singles, which I notched up on my bedpost as having loved dearly over the course of the year. When you’ve read through it all, you can also feel their brilliance as nature intended, by hopping over to the superconnected playlist I’ve made over on Spotify (though the Tortoise track will be absent because their oeuvre is not yet available). Continue reading Songs of 2009 – Out of the limelight.

Albums of 2009 – Lis(z)tomania!

UPDATE: Grab a convenient playlist featuring two key tracks from (almost) all of the albums featured here.

2009 has been a year when I’ve taken stock of a fair bit of older music – thank Spotify for that! – which might explain my profligacy in terms of listening to some really highly-regarded new albums. Nonetheless, in the last few weeks I’ve clawed back lost ground and taken the opportunity to investigate the hype surrounding some of this year’s gems.

In the interests of economy, I’m only listing my fifteen favourite albums; there were plenty of others that I enjoyed, but couldn’t justify adding to this list. So, as well as the albums listed below, do please go and have a listen to wonderful albums like Doves‘ triumphant Kingdom Of Rust, The Cribs‘ Johnny Marr-enhanced Ignore The Ignorant, and Atlas Sound‘s mesmerising Logos. But without further ado, and a bit more explanation where necessary, here are my offerings: Continue reading Albums of 2009 – Lis(z)tomania!