From left to right: Derek Brown, Wayne Coyne, Kliph Scurlock, Michael Ivins and Steven Drozd.
The Flaming Lips are an Alternative Rock band from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They formed in 1983 and have become one of the most well known cult bands of the past 30 years. They began as a punk band but became more and more eclectic and psychedelic with the passing years. They also moved from indie labels to Warner Bros. Records early in The Nineties, where they've remained since.note Their contract with Warners expired in 2011, which inspired the band to put out EPs of new material almost every month of that year. They re-signed their contract with the label in early 2012.The band personnel has changed several times over the years, but since 1993 it's more or less been the lineup of singer/guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Coyne, bassist/keyboardist Michael Ivins - the two of whom founded the band - and longtime drummer/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd.note They had an additional guitarist, Ronald Jones, between 1991-1996. Recently, Drozd moved mainly to guitar duties, with Kliph Scurlock joining as a drummer starting with Embryonic, and live guitarist/keyboardist Derek Brown was also promoted to full band member.Amongst their most acclaimed work - both critically and commercially - is 1999's The Soft Bulletin, which critics compared to Pet Sounds for its multi-layered production and poignant subject matter, as well as its' 2002 follow-up Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which includes "Do You Realize??", the official State Rock Song of their home state of Oklahoma.Studio album discography
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwendsnote A collaborative album featuring Kesha, Bon Iver, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Prefuse 73, Tame Impala, Jim James (from My Morning Jacket), Nick Cave, Lightning Bolt, Yoko Ono, Neon Indian, Erykah Badu, New Fumes, and Chris Martin (from Coldplay). Released exclusively on vinyl for Record Store Day. (2012)
The Terror (2013)
The Flaming Lips provide examples of:
Action Girl: Yoshimi in "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots".
And Starring: Their full length cover of Dark Side of the Moon, which is jointly credited to The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs (a band founded by one of Wayne Coyne's nephews), along with Henry Rollins and Peaches
Arc Words: Several of their songs are about/make reference to the Sun, most notably "The Sun" (duh) as well as the titles of the first three tracks on Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell: "Assassination of the Sun", "I'm a Fly in a Sunbeam" and "Sunship Balloons".
Ascended Extra: Kliph Scurlock was originally hired as a touring drummer for the Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots tour, due to Steve Drozd branching out to keyboards and other assorted instruments, but was eventually brought in as the band's full-time drummer.
Similarly, touring backing vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Derek Brown also recently became a full-time member.
Broken Record: The hidden track on the album Hit to Death in the Future Head, which is simply the outro to the song "The Magician vs. The Headache" repeated for close to a half-hour.
Brown Note: Zaireeka has a warning label on the front stating that "on rare occasion" the various frequencies used on the album have caused listeners to become disoriented.
Careful With That Axe: In the middle of "Riding to Work in the Year 2025" and in the middle of the second hour of "I Found a Star on the Ground". Also, the entirety of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt 2."
Concept Album: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots has a (brief) narrative arc. "Clouds Taste Metallic" has songs about animals, Christmas, and, er, animals during Christmastime.
Yoshimi isn't really the best example of a concept album, because only the first four tracks have anything to do with one another. Their most recent album, Embryonic, fits the description much more accurately, what with the recurring unnamed female protagonist, the subplot about the earth-visiting alien, the preoccupation with astrology and the cosmos (including several zodiac-named tracks), the perpetual themes of existentialism, the insignificance of humanity, and the search for meaning and morality, etc.
Transmissions from the Satellite Heart could certainly be read as a concept album, where the songs are literally transmissions from a satellite heart, the device described in the opening track "Turn It On" which serves as a device that you can tune into if you can't relate to other stations, which ties the songs together in their themes of misfits, most notably in songs like "Pilot Can at the Queer of God" and "She Don't Use Jelly".
Cover Album: The band decided to do a whole-album cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, which turned out exactly as bizarre as you'd expect
Cover Version: Apart from the Dark Side of the Moon album, these are quite rare on their albums. The reissue of Hear It Is has a cover of "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran, In a Priest Driven Ambulance has a cover of "What a Wonderful World", Transmissions from the Satellite Heart has a cover of Ed Cromarty and George Rush's "Plastic Jesus"note probably best known for appearing in Cool Hand Luke, At War With the Mystics' iTunes release has a cover of "Killer Queen" (originally recorded for a tribute album) among the bonus tracks, Heady Fwends has a cover of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" (in collaboration with Erykah Badu)... and oh yeah, the A Collection of Songs Representing an Enthusiasm for Recording...By Amateurs compilation also brings up covers of "Strychnine" by The Sonics (mashed with Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding"), "Death Valley '69", "Thank You" and "After the Gold Rush".
They also toured with BECK on his Sea Change tour in 2002.
Creator Breakdown: "Try to Explain" was written in response to Wayne Coyne separating with his partner of 25 years.
The Terror as a whole was the result of this, further complicated by Steven Drozd's lifelong battle with substance abuse.
Darker and Edgier: Arguably Embryonic; while many of the band's songs have touched on dark subjects before, Embryonic as a whole is almost unrelentingly dark.
The follow-up The Terror, takes the darkness of Embryonic way Up to Eleven, with virtually no uplifting moments and a consistently bleak, discordant atmosphere that borders on the absolutely nightmarish in parts.
Distinct Double Album: Embryonic, which was deliberately crafted to be a double album from the start. (Although standard edition versions of the CD still have it at one disc, mainly to cut on manufacturing costs)
Inverted with Zaireeka: while it's split across four CDs, all four CDs are actually meant to be played simultaneously.
Drugs Are Bad: According to the Fearless Freaks documentary, former guitarist Ronald Jones left the band due to paranoia about Steven Drozd's drug addiction.
Epic Rocking: "7 Skies H3", which is 24 hours long. This following on from "Found a Star on the Ground", at six hours. There's also a noise loop on Hit To Death In The Future Head that's almost half an hour long.
Future Me Scares Me: "All We Have is Now" is about a man meeting a future version of himself, who has some not-so-great news: "You and me were never meant to be part of the future."
Gratuitous Panning: taken Up to Eleven with Zaireeka - the instruments are spread out across 4 separate discs, which are meant to be played simultaneously on 4 different stereos spread out around one room.
Greatest Hits Album: Oddly, given how long and varied the band's career has been up to this point, only one actual hits album has been released, A Collection of Songs Representing an Enthusiasm for Recording...By Amateurs, and even that only covers songs from the band's first four albums.
Hidden Track: Only one has appeared on the band's albums so far, but given that it's an untitled track consisting solely of the outro to one of their other songs looped for nearly a half-hour, it's hard to say whether it actually counts or not.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Many of the band's recent releases have had this. Of note are the limited edition of their Christmas on Mars film that included a box of Flaming Lips popcorn and the limited edition version of Embryonic that came packaged in a small, furry box.
Taken to extremes with new songs the band has been releasing as of 2011. So far, all of them have been released in small-run, extremely limited quantities batches, including a split 10" with Neon Indian pressed to hand-colored vinyl, and four songs released on a USB stick stuck inside a life-size replica of a human skull made out of gummi candy.
Not to mention the 24 hour song that was packaged via usb inside an ACTUAL HUMAN SKULL.
Long Title: Almost to the point of self-parody. Among the most infamous are "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning" and "What Is the Light? (An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] by Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the "Big Bang" That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe)".
Also leaks into the titles of the band's albums and EPs from time to time, including Due to High Expectations, The Flaming Lips Are Providing Needles for Your Balloons and The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon.
Moral Guardians: When "Do You Realize??" was chosen as the official Oklahoma state rock song, the decision was unaminously approved in the Senate but fell three votes short in the House of Representatives, where one representative criticised the band's use of "offensive language" and another claimed to be offended by how Ivins had worn a T-shirt depicting the hammer and sickle at the official announcement ceremony.note No prizes for guessing their party affiliation. Considering that the Lips have put out songs like "Jesus Shootin' Heroin" and EPs like Yeah, I Know It's a Drag... But Wastin' Pigs Is Still Radical, it's interesting how this was the only time they ever came to Moral Guardians' attention.
The Not Remix: The Soft Bulletin includes remixes of "Race for the Prize" and "Waitin' for a Superman" by Peter Mokran alongside the versions that were mixed by Dave Fridmann like the rest of the album. There are subtle differences between the mixes - one of the most notable is that the Fridmann mix of "Race For The Prize" includes two drum tracks, an arrangement that was a holdover from when the song was in the running to appear on Zaireeka.
Speaking of Zaireeka, they also released stereo mixes of two Zaireeka tracks, "Riding to Work in the Year 2025 (Your Invisible Now)" and "Thirty-Five Thousand Feet of Despair" .
The Pete Best: There have been a few that would fit this bill, such as original vocalist Mark Coyne (who only appears on the band's debut EP), and the drummers the band went through prior to their first permanent drummer Richard English.
Power Trio: The band has been this at two separate points during their career, the first during the 80s (with Wayne Coyne on guitar, Michael Ivins on bass, and Richard English on drums and piano), and the second during the late 90s/early 00s (with Wayne Coyne on guitar, Michael Ivins on bass, and Steve Drozd on drums, keyboards, and damned near any other instrument you can think of)
Precision F-Strike: "The W.A.N.D.", "I Was Zapped By the Lucky Super Rainbow" and, in a more somber delivery, "Ashes in the Air".
Done with the opening lines of "You Lust" - "You got a lot of nerve / a lot of nerve to fuck with me".
Reclusive Artist: Ronald Jones, who has since refused to say anything about his involvement with his former bandmates.
Record Producer: Dave Fridmann, who has produced nearly all of the band's albums since In a Priest Driven Ambulance. "Nearly" because he was too busy with Mercury Rev and was replaced by Keith Cleversley for Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. Interestingly, this wasn't as big a change as it might seem since Cleversley had previously engineered Hit to Death in the Future Head, and Satellite Heart itself doesn't sound significantly different.
Serial Escalation: If you thought Zaireeka was crazy for being an album that requires four CDs to all be played simultaneously, the band released a free song via their YouTube channel called "Two Blobs Fucking." This one's split into twelve separate videos intended to be played simultaneously. Hope you have 11 friends with smart phones handy!
Another of the band's releases for 2011 was the song "I Found a Star on the Ground," which is 6 hours long. If that isn't enough, there is also "7 Skies H3," which is 24 hours long.
Shout-Out: The title of the EP Yeah, I Know It's a Drag... But Wastin' Pigs Is Still Radical paraphrases dialogue from the film River's Edge - the actual line is just "Wastin' pigs is radical, man".
Early in their career, they had a tendency to reference or sample The Beatles - Oh My Gawd!!! has Beatles samples as Bookends ("Everything's Explodin'" begins with a sample of "Revolution 9", namely Yoko Ono saying "if... you become naked"; "Love Yer Brain" ends with a faint background loop of John Lennon singing "Turn off your mind, relax" from "Tomorrow Never Knows"), "Out For A Walk" seems to take it's clip of "La Marseillaise" straight from the intro of "All You Need Is Love", and "The Spontaneous Combustion Of John" quotes from "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill" ("Like the first time Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes")
"The Sun" slightly misquotes a line from Carole King's "So Far Away" ("It'd be so kind to see your face in my door", when in "So Far Away" it's "It'd be so fine to see your face in my door")
"In The Morning Of The Magicians" is seemingly named after The Morning of the Magicians, a book on the occult by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier. However, the song otherwise has absolutely nothing to do with the book.
Something Blues: "Charlie Manson Blues" from Hear It Is, "Talkin' 'bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)" from Hit to Death in the Future Head.
Step Up to the Microphone: Steven Drozd on "Pompeii am Götterdämmerung", former drummer Richard English on "Can't Exist". Wayne Coyne was originally going to add his own vocals to "Pompeii..." too, but the band decided it sounded better with just a choir of Steven Drozds instead.
Steven Drozd sings also on "If" and "Sagittarius Silver Announcement".
What Could Have Been: It's been noted by the band and other sources that Zaireeka was originally intended to be a 10 CD box set as opposed to the four that they eventually ended up releasing.
Some of the mystery of how the 10 CD version would have sounded has been answered, however, due to the band passing out special CDs containing a mixdown of what discs 5-10 would have included during special listening parties to commemorate Zaireeka's 10th anniversary.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: The basis of "Talkin' 'Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)."