Why I gave up on the Flaming Lips

WayneCoyneLipsTakedown.jpg
Photo By Erik Hess
The majority of the music world was first introduced to the Flaming Lips in 1993. That year, their abstract anthem "She Don't Use Jelly" became an unlikely hit on MTV. Even the most distant observer could tell straight away that the Lips were weird. Really weird. These idiosyncratic sonic outlaws from Oklahoma City had been making unconventional, tripped-out music for years before they became eccentric poster boys for psych-rock in the middle of the grunge boom, and they played up that madcap outsider role to the hilt, reveling in the attention while freaking America the fuck out. Now, it's just time to get the fuck out.

See also:
The rapid decline of Kings of Leon


The Flaming Lips' creative ambition and outlandish sensibilities coalesced perfectly on their 1999 magnum opus, The Soft Bulletin, an album where their songwriting talents and experimental sounds were praised, rather than their oddball behavior and many quirks. After a decade of being a casual fan, that's the record that caused me to completely fall for the band. Their series of celebratory shows in support of that album -- and its stellar follow-up, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots -- were some of the most joyous, inspired live performances that I've had the pleasure to witness.

But in the subsequent decade, the Flaming Lips have retread that same creative ground with live sets that never really change much -- Wayne Coyne crowd-surfing in a clear plastic ball, costumed dancers on stage, loads of confetti -- and albums that have grown progressively worse and sonically stale. Their live shows are spectacles, sure, but they've turned into soulless ones. And after years of giving them the benefit of the doubt, I was finally pushed over the edge by their recent pointless collaboration with Miley Cyrus. I've officially given up on the Flaming Lips.

Shtick can only take you so far, and at this point it seems like Coyne is fresh out of ideas and searching desperately for different ways to shock the music world instead of simply getting back to making groundbreaking music. Creating an aimless, NSFW short film with Miley Cyrus (and Moby) just seems to be a ploy to attach the Lips brand to the hot new pariah on the scene, making Coyne and company edgy by association. The insipid results prove that their creative hearts and minds weren't really all that invested in the project, it just seemed like a good idea when they were high.

The misguided Miley collaboration aside, the simple fact of the matter is that the last few Flaming Lips albums have flat-out sucked. "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" just might be the most annoying song recorded in the past 10 years. (Tim McGraw has released five albums of dreck in that time, so that's saying something.) The Lips' music just isn't all that interesting or -- more crucially -- dangerous anymore. Coyne is starring in bland advertisements for companies that are just trying to make themselves seem cool by having the Flaming Lips involved. Meanwhile, these avant-garde outsider anthems have been replaced by safe, lifeless interpretations of revolutionary albums by other artists (Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon) and hackneyed regurgitations of their earlier sound.


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52 comments
Missy Carr
Missy Carr

If he is a writer for City Pages his job is to critique shows and his opinion is whatever it is. It's his job-you can agree or disagree.

p3nginace
p3nginace

Fine so you lost faith and love for the Lips, boo woo. First off all the things  you said about there live show, don't use the giant ball, dancing costumes (occasionally ) , but still lots of confetti. Yes the last album was a dark and lonely album dealingwith a major break up in his life but the embryonic was a major psychedelic adventure. I have been to over 10 lips shows and have almost gave up on them after some events that have madethe news but I still feel the love that was once there in there studio albums and live sets...... and I agree then stop following them if there that bad...        

dryfliesonly
dryfliesonly

I find it ironic that this particular journalist has an issue with schtick.

Jennifer Brown
Jennifer Brown

Aww Erik, Did someone piss in your cheerios today? Don't like their music anymore? Don't listen to it..... and not cool of you (for the venue or the band) to put a stink stamp out there about the show to an audience of people that might go and love what it is. Have you survived as a touring musician doing what you loved regardless of what the industry told you to do for 30 years, and played sold out shows all over the world that make people happy? P.S. Pretty sure Wayne Coyne read this and doesn't give a flying cuss :)

gipsonshoemaker
gipsonshoemaker

I couldn't agree more with this article. I've always thought that the Flaming Lips peaked creatively by the early part of the 2000s. Their first few albums up through the mid-90s were pretty solid for lo-fi alternative rock. Zaireeka is a fun little concept to fuck around with if you have the time, CD players/turntables and money to do so. Yoshimi was alright, but The Soft Bulletin was a beautiful album. With that being said, the latter output is garbage. Coyne is way the fuck too old to be doing the stuff he is. It could be said that his collaborations with Miley are tongue in cheek or ironic, though I find the definition of selling out or pandering to be more fitting.


And let's not forget the constant attachment to the work of Pink Floyd. Doing live covers is more than enough. Making a cover album of Dark Side is pushing it, though well intended. But making a companion album to, you guessed it, Dark Side of the fucking Moon! Wayne should disband the Lips and call up David Gilmour if he wants to fulfill his wet dreams of performing color-by-numbers interpretations of Pink Floyd in their subpar glory. Did this guy only listen to ten albums before his tenure with the Lips? It's as though he has a knowledge of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, P-Funk and nothing else. Shame though, as he's quite the instrumentalist.

Melissa Knutson
Melissa Knutson

I think I need to stop reading this I seen Flaming Lips a few years ago I loved it .. and I'm seeing them tomorrow night and I can't wait .. Wayne Coyne in my opinion is brilliant . Old and new ..

Preston Saari
Preston Saari

Dylan and the Clap aside. The rest of those bands blow. Are you in your 50's or still playing hacky sack?

Jeremy Hageman
Jeremy Hageman

Cuz of that dumb miley video that pretty much pushes prescriptions meds

John Rouner
John Rouner

I mean city pages sucks... But just as hard as flaming lips

John Rouner
John Rouner

Try phish, string cheese incident, widespread panic, allman bros, grateful dead/ remaining members, blues traveler, Lettuce, Clapton, Dylan... The list is endless. 30 years is nothing and Lips blow.

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

I thought I would click in here and see "...because Wayne Coyne is an insufferable entitled hypocritical twat."


Guess not. Yoshimi was an anomaly in an otherwise predictably boring falling-off. Great records are made by shitheads all the time...let him have it.

Perri Pryor
Perri Pryor

When the Lips collaborate with Yngwie, then you know they're done.

Brian Olson
Brian Olson

that guys voice is nails on a chalkboard, they had about 2 good songs

Chris Early
Chris Early

City pages only likes music of a fashion, which has nothing to do with sound. I wouldn't even rate them as hipsters.I know plenty of hipsters who actually enjoy cool music. Guys like this erik only like bands that no one else ever heard of, up until someone else hears of them. Then they become sellouts whose music is no longer "dangerous." It is just selfishness and snobbery, without a shred of integrity. I bet they go home at night, turn off all the lights and lip sync Richard Marx.

Joseph M. Adams
Joseph M. Adams

All City Pages articles should be titled: "Either Click Here, Buy Advertising Space, Or We'll Die"

Stephanie Jeann
Stephanie Jeann

That was actually a great video, more artistic than most..yes it had a point but only they know what it was which makes it spectacular :) they even bumped up Miley's pop to another level for me..she was more in to something than just sticking out her tongue. Plus last album was great,

Sierra Fern Milker
Sierra Fern Milker

WHATEVER CITY PAGES. Way to repost this with a different headline. I love how you publish a 3 page love letter about how wonderful and edgy Miley Cyrus is but when a well respected band of over 30 years comes, you write this. Instead of wasting your time paying someone to write such negative opinions like this, how about you try interviewing a cool local band or something?

Aaron Nelson
Aaron Nelson

Recently CP's format has been "here's something poorly written about something unimportant. (Insert two or three word headline about how mad they are followed by ...)

Alirox
Alirox

I keep tellin' you, rock is dead.

Robert Hilstrom
Robert Hilstrom

In the next blog City Pages will be praising the genius of Prince...even though you can petty much replace FL with Prince in this article...

Jack Howard Buckholz
Jack Howard Buckholz

They've generally spent the last decade asking, "What do people think is weird?" Then doing that, rather than actually experimenting with anything. (I did really like Embryonic though)

Joe Halvarson
Joe Halvarson

Do you remember when the Flaming Lips invited Justin Timberlake to play bass during one of their sets? http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/flaming-lips-get-n-sync-20030129 If you really want to, you could expand this critique to include how teaming with Miley Cyrus is just a retread of a past stunt that left a bunch of "fans" up in arms over how they could betray their greatness by doing something with a pop star. A well-respected (if we can call them that) band like the Flaming Lips collaborating with a pop star is daring. At least, for a rock band it is. Ditch the snobbery. That's boring and pointless.

Alicia Neubauer
Alicia Neubauer

Have your opinions about the music, absolutely, but why attack Erik and CP for publishing this? Seems silly.

Preston Saari
Preston Saari

Try being in the same band for let's say 1-4 years. Most break up. They've been playing for fucking 30 years! By the way Embryonic is bad ass. I get it that it's not the good old early 2000 stuff, but enjoy the shows and throw on an old record when you need it. They are still a better band than most of the crap spewed out in the past few years

Alicia Neubauer
Alicia Neubauer

Omg you guys how dare this guy has an opinion on music as a writer on a blog about music! This isn't hard-hitting journalism like I'm used to - how DARE City Pages publish such trash! This isn't about the Kardashians; it's VERY unimportant in the grand scheme of my sad, useless life! Opinions are for morons!!!!! BOOOOOOO

Stephanie Marie Jones
Stephanie Marie Jones

I see the point, but a bit harsh. I'd think a true fan would realize this is just a slump, and hope for a freakier future for the band. As I do. I watch Christmas on Mars every year while wrapping presents...

Geoff Weiss
Geoff Weiss

This is sadly one of the most pathetic articles i've read from city pages. Looks like Erik is looking for a platinum album from the Lips, and is unhappy because their a experimental band, experimenting with other musicians and sounds.

Cody Sylvester
Cody Sylvester

Do you actually have something important to write about? All I see from this page is cynical 'hipsters' ranting about how they don't like something

atlasbaja
atlasbaja

Well that was kinda mean. Anyway since this seems like a your Dear John letter to the FL I might be looking to finally make my move now that they're single :)

Mark Albers
Mark Albers

Have to agree. They are just tired at this point.

Chris Lunceford
Chris Lunceford

Ditching a band or musician for one misstep can be short sighted. Artists that really take chances sometime fall flat on their faces in front of everyone. Teetering on the edge of success/failure and not playing it safe is what makes music exciting. Just like this article, Gimee Noise got it wrong(in my eyes) but I will still be a fan and keep reading because I have found out about a lot of cool music through the column/blog. Kings of Lean does suck.

David Smith
David Smith

For once, something worth reading in the Pages. Total agreeance.

Devon Torrey Bryant
Devon Torrey Bryant

Harsh, but very not wrong. I really liked Embryonic, and about a song and a half on everything else since Yoshimi. My two cents is that their records from Priest Driven to Yoshimi (esp Clouds, Zaireeka & Soft Bulletin) are so unbelievably good that I will never hate on them for doing whatever they want, but I also have zero interest in their albums made of meat or whatever it is they're doing these days (remaking Sgt Pepper? Neat. How 'bout writing some new songs of your own that have, like, choruses and stuff?). I didn't even know they were in MSP until this article, for example...

Michael Ferrier
Michael Ferrier

GET OUT OF MY HEAD, Erik Thompson!!!. I am feeling exactly the same way. The Spurlock deal was lame. And the music has been just amateur weirdness for quite some time. Then NUDITY! EDGY, RIGHT?!

Onan
Onan

@gipsonshoemaker I"m guessing their impending cover of the Sgt. Pepper album will make your head explode with rage.

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