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The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (Cover Artwork)

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips: The Soft BulletinThe Soft Bulletin (1999)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:


Contributed by: relay1112relay1112
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The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin - this is imaginative, fanciful music. Frontman Wayne Coyne leads an imaginary orchestra through 58 minutes of atmospheric melodies. Backed by a ridiculous array of instruments (pianos, church bells, xylophones, strings) and masterful studio magic, the Lips have.
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The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin - this is imaginative, fanciful music. Frontman Wayne Coyne leads an imaginary orchestra through 58 minutes of atmospheric melodies. Backed by a ridiculous array of instruments (pianos, church bells, xylophones, strings) and masterful studio magic, the Lips have achieved a fully enveloping sound. This, however, makes them nearly impossible to define into one category. Being the music neophyte I am, I would take a stab at the dark in this and call it 'indie pop', to simplify terms. From the first track, however, one would see that this is not your ordinary 'indie pop' CD.

Probably the first thing you notice when listening to this album is the drums; this is one of the few albums where drums play so large a role in the music. Steven Drozd is the drummer (though percussionist may be a more appropriate title), and uses a vast array of percussion instruments to create an environmental feel for the song. Almost more than any other single instrument, the drums can change the feel of the song, and rather than just improving it somewhat, can upgrade it from good to great with a single fill.

The Soft Bulletin starts off with Race for the Prize (remix), which almost gives you the feeling of a race. It's one of the most upbeat, poppiest songs on the CD, and a fine choice for the opening track.

Following that is A Spoonful Weighs a Ton, which starts off with a little introduction of what seems to be flutes and harps. Coyne's voice comes in as soft as ever, chanting a few nonsensical rhyming lines. A few choruses from background hummers later, the song explodes. Well, explodes in the context of this CD. A single hammered note from the guitar is tossed into the foreground, with hard-hitting base and drums unfolding in the background. This is the first song where the listener really realizes the layering and distortion occurring with the drums. Drozd layers his drums until the lick would be impossible to play with one person. Quite an impressive effect. Though my least favorite song on this CD, it can stand next to most songs out there and win hands down.

Next is one of my favorite songs on the CD, if because of its sheer volume. The Spark That Bled changes tempos, and, in fact, changes completely a few times throughout the song. It starts off with a less than dramatic opening with a simple hi-hat drumbeat. Soon, though, the horns enter into the background along with a chorus, and the track picks up drama and credibility. Soon an almost Amazonian melody kicks in, with fragmental drum layers. This is one of the fullest moments of the Bulletin. Next, Coyne sings "I stood up and I said yeah". Yet more drama ensues, until the song changes completely, causing you to check if it's a new track. A simple guitar lick backed by relentless drums make this turn a complete surprise. Next the song breaks down to its opening form, and finally ends, leaving you breathless.

One enhanced, impossible drumbeat later, The Spiderbite Song begins. Piano and plucked guitar are backed by this little drum lick. This being the first Flaming Lips song I ever heard, it left quite an impression. I fell in love with Drozd's percussion. The Spiderbite Song is a love song speaking of a spiderbite his lover got, an accident she had, and how he is glad it didn't kill her; "I'm so glad that it didn't destroy you, how sad that would be, cuz if it destroyed you, it would destroyed me." A simple but nice love line.

Next is another poppy love song, Buggin'. "The buzz of love, is busy buggin' you." An interesting choice to put two insect-themed songs next to each other. The drums make this song, and you end up paying more attention to them and the buzzing bass than the guitars and pianos.

Next comes What Is the Light? It starts off with a simple bass drum backing with a ringing piano chord. The drums kick in and end the boring (but appropriate) beginning, and liven up the song. This song is more atmospheric than any of its predecessors on the record; it's chock-full of wispy philosiphizing and distant, drawn-out vocals.

Following is The Observer, once again opening with a bass drum kick. Softly covering it are subtle guitars and pianos, with horns joining in later. The song continues to layer thicker and thicker, with strings and humming eventually following suit. It's an instrumental, and is even more atmospheric than its predecessors. It doesn't need vocals; it stands quite well on its own.

Waitin' For a Superman is a story told with Coyne's usual humor and lightness. "Tell everbody waiting for Superman/that they should try to hold on as best they can/he hasn't dropped them, forgot them or anything/it's just too heavy for Superman to lift." Yet another example of Wayne Coyne's fine lyrics. Rolling drums and pianos dominate this song (with a church bell tolling at some points throughout the song).

Next comes another slow, atmospheric song, Suddenly Everything Has Changed. More soft, distant vocals drift over heavy, metallic drums. After Coyne utters "Suddenly, everything has changed", an orchestra comes in to play a sad-sounding fill. The guitar follows, in an equally lonesome offering. Soon the song starts up again, only to be followed by this sad interlude again.

The Gash starts with a dramatic oohing and aahing of a chorus, with bells aplenty. One pounding piano fill later, the Gospel-like chorus chants some lines. Coyne offers a question between verses; "Will the fight for our sanity/become the fight of our lives?" Yet another solid offering.

Feeling Yourself Disintegrate starts off sounding almost like something the Smashing Pumpkins would offer in one of their softer songs. This changes in a hurry, though, when Coyne enters with echoing vocals and strumming guitars. The percussion enters two minutes into the song, and only enhances the echoing feeling. It's a trippy and lonesome song, seemingly far off in the distance.

A piano with crickets chirping in the background opens up Sleeping on the Roof. This instrumental sounds pretty much the same throughout, offering nothing special as the other tracks had.

Next comes Race for the Prize. Interestingly, the Lips chose to put the original song later in the CD than the remix. There really is not that great a difference, just the effects of the drums and the vocals are reduced. I'm not sure why they even put both versions on here. Maybe they thought the song was good enough to hear twice.

The closing track is Waitin' for a Superman (remix), which, again, is not terribly different. It is, however, a satisfying ending to the CD. The final chord seems to sum up the feeling of the entire album.

The Soft Bulletin is a masterpiece; some of the Lips' finest work. Coyne's soft, philosophical, at times faltering vocals swirl over a veritable orchestra of instruments and layering. The percussion is incredible, adding a unique depth to the album that few others possess. All of the songs are good; there is no true filler here. You will appreciate every song, moreso each time you hear them. This album's longevity is impressive; I find something new every time I hear it. If you're a fan of Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., or any other of these fine bands, you will enjoy this CD; I guarantee it.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Clash - London CallingDescendents - Milo Goes To CollegeThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Rancid - ... And Out Come The WolvesCursive - The Ugly OrganPixies - DoolittleGreen Day - DookieThe Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink RobotsThe Flaming Lips - At War with the MysticsAt The Drive-In - Relationship Of Command

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Eddie (August 7, 2003)

This band ROCKS.

Anonymous (November 7, 2002)

Most. Over-rated. Band. Ever

Anonymous (November 5, 2002)

i know a guy who goes to shows...

relay1112 (November 4, 2002)

Exactly, the URL would imply that this site would appeal to the musical interest of those who enjoy punk, and many who enjoy punk music also enjoy indie music. So there's our logic, and we can write reviews of whatever the moderator (who by the way knows more about how he wants to run this website than you) allows.

Anonymous (November 4, 2002)

oh now i know its not THE dire straits... but i couldnt at the spur of the moment introduce my argument without using THE. get it? why the hostility everyone. albeit it was very weak, nice attempt.. like for instance.. diversity is indeed sweet. i preached diversity in my message. but always remember the URL of this website.. thats all... and i wanted to post here because, well i simply can. listen to my gripes, and reply back. i love it. im famous.

evildeadalive (November 4, 2002)

I saw these guys on Beverly Hills 90210.

Anonymous (November 4, 2002)

To the guy 5 Posts down:

)===D~

4131 (November 4, 2002)

If you don't like the band being reviewed then don't click on its link. Its not as if someone forced you to read the flaming lips review so we could in turn here your opinion on their place on punknews.org. Your opinion, in my opinion, is fucking stupid.

relay1112 (November 2, 2002)

First of all, they're a great band. Second, I see where you're coming from but some people who do like punk a lot also have OTHER tastes. This is a place where you can come and find other bands you like. Some people like punk bands AND indie bands. It's called diversity.

Anonymous (November 2, 2002)

as far back as i can remember, they were never 'the' dire straits...and just becasue they weren't greta on conan doesn't meen they are an awful band. pull your head outta your ass.

maverick (November 2, 2002)

To the guy 2 comments down:
Do you mean "Zaireeka!"? I have a copy of it, but have yet to listen to it, as I need four CD players to do so.

-Scott

Anonymous (November 2, 2002)

Look, I am all against the people who state "this is not punk" and blah blah, but now we are getting out of hand. It seems the leaders of this website are fully trying to disband with the ideals of promoting and reviewing punk music, or music of similar liking, but the Flaming Lips? Jesus Christ. I saw them on Conan, and nearly cried out of sickness. I have heard their past releases, and I must say it is absurd to have them on here.. Now first and foremost, I must point everyones attention to the top banner of this website stating, "Tours, News, Zines and Stuff About Punk." Please, feel free to change it. I am not a 14 year old kid saying this is that and that is this or claiming I want a NOFX album reviewed instead. Hell no. But The Flaming Lips are just an awful band. I'd much rather have someone reviewing the Dire Straits or Van Morrison. Word to your mothers.

john d.

Anonymous (November 2, 2002)

Has anyone gotten the boxed set? I really want that.

Anonymous (November 1, 2002)

Flight Test is a very cool song...I enjoy their really old stuff as well.

relay1112 (November 1, 2002)

Yeah, I just got Yoshimi. Damn good, though it seems to trail off in quality towards the end. Expect a review of it once I know the disc well.

maverick (November 1, 2002)

Fantastic review, fantastic album. The best of the band's career [although Yoshimi is pretty damn good, too].

-Scott

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