Feliz Cinco de Mayo mis amigos! I think that’s correct Spanish. It’s been several years since I’ve had to use it, but today seems like an appropriate day to dust it off. I hope you enjoyed a margarita and your favorite Mexican dish in celebration of the holiday. Speaking of ethnicities, have you heard about this racism controversy involving The Flaming Lips? I know with rancher Cliven Bundy and Clippers owner Donald Sterling there’s been a lot of issues surrounding racism lately, so it’s kind of easy to see how this one may have gotten swept under the rug. Granted, this also isn’t as juicy of a story. The plot is as follows. Back in March, Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock left the band. No reason was given for his exit at the time. Now Scurlock has started to speak up, and blames an argument with band frontman Wayne Coyne as the reason he was “fired” from the band. It stems from an incident in early March, where Christina Fallin, the daughter of Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, posted a photo on Instagram in which she was wearing a Native American headdress. It was basically a promotional stunt for her band Pink Pony (aka Chrome Pony), and after it generated a lot of controversy, she apologized about the photo. Apparently Christina Fallin also imitated a Native American war dance during her band’s show at the Norman Music Festival, which caused additional problems and resulted in another apology. What this boils down to is that Coyne jumped to the defense of (his friend) Fallin, while Scurlock called her out and was angry about her misappropriation of Native American culture. Well, when I say “called her out” I mean he made some angry comments about it on social media both directly to her and at others as well. Scurlock says he doesn’t regret what he did, but does feel one or two things he posted may have gone a little too far, and removed them shortly after posting them. But Fallin saw some of the posts, got upset and told Coyne about it. This turned into some angry text message exchanges between the two Flaming Lips members, and it’s something that Scurlock assumed would blow over as Coyne apparently can be a real hothead from time to time. Well, after their initial argument, they had band practice together the next day and things seemed to be largely back to normal until later that night when Coyne sent more angry texts and suggested potentially firing Scurlock from the band. He would follow through on that threat a few hours later. So what does all of this tell us? Well, like most bands, The Flaming Lips are not immune to arguments and differences of opinions between members. Per Scurlock’s account of events, Coyne is painted as angry, abusive, and flippant when it comes to Native American culture. Well, perhaps he’s not flippant about it, but is certainly willing to defend the controversial and racist actions of his friends. How accurate is all of this? Coyne has done very little to defend himself, outside of posting some quotes about eliminating hate from your life and embracing love. Considering all of the strange stunts that Coyne has put together under the Lips name over the last few years, including gummy and chocolate creations that include music on USB sticks buried within, working with pop stars like Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus on psychedelic songs and projects, crafting nudity filled NSFW videos and playing one extended 24 hour jam session, there seems to be a grand attention-seeking element to it all. In some sense it reeks of desperation, even as it can also be regarded as somewhat cool. And while Coyne projects himself as this cool, laid back guy on stage and via social media, there’s also some obvious indications that much of it is an act designed to sell product. As a Flaming Lips fan, I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about the band these last few years, and assuming what Scurlock says is true it lessens my enthusiasm even more. If you’d like to read Scurlock’s lengthy, full statement on the matter, all of the gory details can be found here. Now let’s try to bring some levity back to today with some free music to download and stream. Don’t miss mp3s in this set from Armand Margjeka, The Glorious, Mr. Flash, The River MOnks and Twin Berlin. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Baths, Beta Frontiers, Iggy Pop & Nick Cave (ft. Thurston Moore) and Young Widows.
Tag: flaming lips
There’s something incomprehensively magnetic about Tame Impala. Identifying exactly what makes the Australian band’s music so compelling is a challenge in itself, primarily because common sense says that psych-pop songs without much in the way of song structure and choruses shouldn’t go down so easily and smoothly. We’ve been trained on verse-chorus-verse, and anything else almost always falls into the “experimental” category. Then again, bands like The Flaming Lips and MGMT have achieved massive popularity while doing things their own way and going completely off the reservation more than a few times. If they can do it, why not Tame Impala too? They’ve even been working with legendary psych-pop producer Dave Fridmann, the man behind The Soft Bulletin and Oracular Spectacular, for their 2010 debut full length Innerspeaker as well as this new one Lonerism. The way in which he shapes Tame Impala’s sound into something more commercially viable can’t be ignored, though his magic is nothing compared to frontman Kevin Parker’s influence, which is so immense you might consider this band a solo project with a bunch of hired hands to recreate the songs in a live setting. Of course some of the other guys in the band might take offense to such a statement, but on any given song Parker is responsible for vocals, guitar, bass, drums and keys, which is essentially everything. He even reduces Fridmann’s normal job of in-studio producing to that of giving him the unmastered studio recordings and asking for judicial editing and a little bit of polish. It becomes an effortless blend of DIY home recorded aesthetic and present day glossy production, which is one of Lonerism‘s biggest charms.
While there is a certain modern aspect to the record, so much of it sounds like vintage ’60s psychedelia that under the right circumstances you might be able to fool a bunch of people into thinking it’s directly from that era. That task becomes even easier because Parker’s voice has enough John Lennon in it to convincingly present songs as some of the former Beatle’s long lost solo recordings. The day-glo vocal harmonies and quirky bounce of “Mind Mischief” for example feels cut from the same hangdog cloth Lennon often adopted, and the swirling shift it takes towards the end is gloriously “A Day in the Life”-like in nature. But Parker’s talents go beyond simple and unavoidable mimicry because he’s able to consistently find ways to challenge our expectations while still hanging onto a very real pop sensibility. Listen to the six minute swirl of “Apocalypse Dreams” to get a real taste of how he’ll change things up just as you’re starting to get comfortable. Instead of being disappointed by his yanking of the rug from underneath our feet, where things head next are almost always equal to or greater than whatever preceeded it. In other words, you’ve got to trust Parker has your best interests at heart and follow him into the darkness. There’s even a song near the end of the record that explains quite perfectly how you should approach these tracks: “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control.” That sentiment makes “Music to Walk Home By” music you can walk home by, and “Why Won’t They Talk to Me?” a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The two songs on the album that really break free from any influences and previous work are the trunk-swinging stomp of “Elephant” and the gloriously strange drift of “Sun’s Coming Up.” Both stand out for completely different reasons as they represent Tame Impala at their most focused and unfocused. The former engineers an energetic, bass-heavy groove that’s jarring compared to everything else on the album, but it hits harder and is more addictive than anything else that comes before and after it. The latter track closes the record and might as well be two songs in one – a waltzy, dramatic piano ballad at the start and a shimmering, psychedelic guitar instrumental at the end. That imbalance doesn’t really do it any favors, but it does make for an excellent way to close out the record. All the other songs fly by on a breeze, so this gentle application of the brakes prepares us for the end. We’ve had all night to play, and now it’s a race against the impending day. “Sun’s coming up now / I guess it’s over,” Parker sings wistfully as the last lines of the album. For all the disappointment and heartbreak that’s chronicled throughout Lonerism, somehow this one cuts the deepest. Perhaps that’s because we too don’t want it to be over. Buried beneath the sadness is also triumph – the realization that the record you just heard was a masterful display of what modern psych-pop can and should be. Tame Impala have expanded and refined the core sound of their debut into a confident work of art worthy of being named one of 2012’s finest.