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Flaming Lips: The Pop Years

by Dan Weiss

Flaming Lips: The Pop Years


About this playlist

You can’t find The Flaming Lips' 1997 opus Zaireeka on Napster because it’s a four-disc set designed to be enjoyed on four CD players blaring in unison. You can’t find the music they more recently released inside edible candy body parts on this service, either. Oh well. Here you'll still find plenty of evidence that once the Oklahoma art rock giants truly got going -- both musically with 1999's gorgeous The Soft Bulletin and visually with an ever-expanding bevy of silly costumes, pranks and stage props -- they started to challenge the limits of the medium itself. Merely making weird songs with funny titles wasn’t cutting it anymore.

And so they started subjecting tunes like “See the Leaves” and “Free Radicals” to fearsome compression and equipment-melting distortion, while teaming up with an ever-stranger host of fellow pop stars: Ke$ha, for instance, on “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded).” This year’s The Terror is nearly all caustic tones that sound scraped off the walls from earlier sessions; there’s an appeal to the pure hypnotic darkness of tracks like “Look … The Sun Rising,” especially once you’ve heard it enough to make out details like the scratchy Gang of Four guitar. But to get here, they actually learned how to write classic pop songs (“Race for the Prize,” “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” “Do You Realize??”) and then break the rules they'd mastered. They covered a whole Pink Floyd album on their own terms. They snuck a blues nugget amid the deathless churning of “Watching the Planets." They can go anywhere. This playlist is proof.

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