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Reviewed by - George Bennett

The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots


Released: November 18, 2003
Origination Year: 2002
Time: N/A
Tracks: 12
Produced by: Dave Fridmann
Style: Studio
Format: CD / DVD-Audio
Enhancement: Bonuses

Until about a year ago, few outside of a decent-sized cult following had ever heard of The Flaming Lips.  Granted, they had scratched Top 40 radio (and MTV video rotation) with their one and only hit 'She Don't Use Jelly', which wrongly presented the group as a happy-go-lucky, lightweight, one-off novelty item.  Few took serious notice and they fell again into relative obscurity.  1993's CD 'Transmissions From the Satellite Heart' , which contained said single, was a very good album, but was pretty much ignored by all but the faithful (including a few critics).


Having released albums for years, it wasn't until Transmissions... that The Flaming Lips really started to polish their own unique sound.  Followed by 1995's 'Clouds Taste Metallic', that sound was further honed and polished, and 'Clouds...' was a very good album indeed, but still ignored by the masses (but not the critics).  It was 1999's 'The Soft Bulletin' that really made critics and the public at large (well, some of us, anyway) take notice of The Lips as a group with an album and a talent to truly be reckoned with.  '...Bulletin' made just about every critic's Top Ten List (including mine - still one of my favorites to this day) and opened the door for The Lips acceptance as a talent to be acknowledged and watched, with great expectation and anticipation, for their next release.  


In 2002, The Flaming Lips released the breakthrough 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' to a hail of praise from all corners, and it made every Top Ten List in the land.  (They have also released a few EPs between discs, and if one wishes to hear their early work, the collections 'Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid (1983-1988)' and 'The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg (1989-1991)'  are highly recommended for their garage/pop/psychedelic roots-rock sound/experiments.  We will also touch briefly here on the phenomenon known as 'Zaireeka', a release for quadrophonic play only:  This is actually four different discs, meant to be played in synch simultaneously, from four different audio systems [eight speakers] in four different "corners", if you will.  Talk about experimental and innovative!  If it sounds as though hi-res 5.1 surround is tailor-made for The Flaming Lips, the answer is an unqualified yes.) 


Thus, one of the strangest, least commercially accepted bands ever (think Pere Ubu, but not quite that strange), thru hard work and perseverance, became so important, so recognizable, that their song 'Do You Realize' is now heard in television commercials and VH1 "teases" by everyone, it seems, at least once a day!  And the REALLY cool thing about ALL of this is that they did it without selling out!  The Lips just kept working and reworking their signature sound until they finally became great, on their own terms.  We come here to praise not only the band and this album, but, even moreso, to praise the 2003 DVD-A release of 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots'.  (This DVD-A might take some searching out.  It is released in a standard CD jewel case, and I have seen it in the regular CD section in two local stores, not in the DVD-A section, which seems a bit of a marketing screw-up.  Also included, as a form of retaliation against the SACD hybrid single disc format, is a regular CD of the album, meaning, even though it takes two discs, you can play it anywhere, but only in stereo on the CD.)


The Flaming Lips are really the project of main man/front man Wayne Coyne.  He writes all the songs and sings all the songs.  It is arguable, however, that without Lips cohorts (multi-instrumentalist) Steve Drozd and Michael Ivins, Coyne would be able to translate the sounds in his head to the sounds we hear on the disc(s).  Songwriting is credited to The Flaming Lips (words and music) and producer Dave Fridmann, who's been onboard for years.


This DVD-A multi-channel project is helmed by Coyne and uber-5.1 surround mixer Elliot Scheiner.  It was the purpose of this mix, says Scheiner, to go "over the top", to take surround sound to the outer limits as it had never been done before.  They succeeded.  The multi-channel mix will not only envelop you, but is the aural equivalent of the latest twist-a-whirl roller coaster.  One is twisted 'round, rocketed up, screwed down, spun around, and generally aurally assaulted in a very agreeable, almost magical way that tests the borders of psycho-acoustics and, seemingly, the planes of reality.  The video "frequency wave forms" that accompany each song on-screen move and blip in multi-colors with the beat and help add to the unreal feeling.  As we used to say - "It's a trip, man!"  A '60s light show right on your television!


The number of extras is also mind-boggling.  There are more videos than an hour's worth of MTV, chats with Coyne and Scheiner, making-of's, and a movie trailer.  Coyne, very thoughtfully (and very usefully), includes in the liner notes a track by track description as to what to listen for in the surround mix.  This entire presentation, from begining to end, is a text book lesson in what hi-res 5.1 surround can do, and it does it all, in spades!

The Flaming Lips' 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' not only contains some of the best, non-cookie cutter-original music you're likely to hear, but this music fits together like a hand-in-glove with the DVD-A surround format.  Listening in stereo, the music is still outstanding, but not hearing the surround mix is rather like taking a shower with a raincoat on!  You miss a whole lot of the intended idea of this release.  If there was ever an album made specifically to take advantage of the latest hi-res multi-channel recording format(s), this is it.  You simply MUST hear it to hear what hi-res surround is capable of!  If you love the new hi-res formats, or are just taking the plunge, 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots'  is the primer for not only showing off your system, but for pushing the envelope yet again, as The Lips have done so many times already.  Hail The Flaming Lips!  Always original to the end - never duplicated - pushing envelopes that only they can conceive of, often before those envelopes are even realized or invented...

Track Listing:
Disc One - CD

Fight Test / One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21 / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt 1 / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt 2 / In the Morning of the Musicians / Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell / Are You a Hypnotist?? / It's Summertime / Do You Realize? / All We Have is Now / Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planita).

Disc Two - DVD 5.1 Version

Fight Test / One More Robot / Sympathy 3000-21 / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt 1 / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt 2 / In the Morning of the Musicians / Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell / Are You a Hypnotist?? / It's Summertime / Do You Realize? / All We Have is Now / Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planita).

Bonus Audio Features -

Up Above the Daily Hum / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1 (Japanese Version) / If I Go Mad (B/S of Do You Realize?? UK Single) / Do You Realize?? (Floating in Space Remix) / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1 (Acoustic from AOL Sessions) / Do You Realize?? (Acoustic CD 101 Version).

Bonus Video Features -

Do You Realize?? (Mark Pellington) / Do You Realize?? (Wayne Coyne) / Making of "Do You Realize??" / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1 The Video (Video) / Making of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1" The Video / Fight Test (Video) / Phoebe Battles the Pink Robots (Video) / Christmas on Mars Movie Trailer / Making of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" DVD-Audio / Are You a Hypnotist?? (Video).

The Flaming Lips:

Wayne Coyne - Vocals / Guitars

Michael Ivens - Bass / Vocals / Guitars

Steve Drozd - Drums / Vocals / Guitars.

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