The Flaming Lips: Critique de l’album American Head

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Thirty years ago this month, the Flaming Lips released their groundbreaking debut album: The 1990s In an ambulance driven by a priest. After spending the 80s trying to figure out if they wanted to be a Prog Replacements or a Floyd punk, the Lips got equipped Priest with an interstellar noise-pop sound that nevertheless retained a distinctly Oklahomaniacal flavor, with fairground noises, recordings of crickets in the field and weird songs about Jesus. In an ambulance driven by a priest was also the first installment in what would become a Lips tradition: the release of rhythm albums at every turn of the decade. Nine years later, their orchestral opus Le Soft Bulletin inaugurated the imperial phase of the group, while 2009 Embryonic presaged a long period of wild, anti-pop experimentation. The group’s debut album of the 2020s also marks another important change of course; in this case, however, it feels less like starting a new journey and more like coming home.In stark contrast to Lips’ recent adventures in fairytale fantasies, American head finds its inspiration in a mysterious piece of Oklahoma musical tradition. After revisiting the documentary Tom Petty Runnin ‘Down A Dream Following the death of the rock legend in 2017, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne became obsessed with the story of Petty’s pre-Heartbreakers group Mudcrutch, with whom Petty spent time in Tulsa in the early ’70s. on his way to Los Angeles. From this anecdote, Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd considered American head as a speculative piece of fiction, reinventing Lips as the kind of drugged Oklahoman local rock band that could have hung out and ended up with a pre-fame Petty as they walked through town.

Turns out, this mythical ’70s storyline is really just a roundabout way to bring Lips back to where they were in the’ 90s. American head retains part of the symphonic sweep of the Sweet newsletter era and the bizarre futurism of their postEmbryonic state, but, deep down, we find the group rekindling their past romance with Neil Young’s piano ballads, the psychedelic guitar sounds of The Beatles, and Bowie’s stargazing hymns. Likewise, Coyne approaches his favorite subjects – love, drugs, and death – from a less existential, more personal perspective, anchoring his stories in more naturalistic contexts. Instead of melodies about killer robots and purple eyed unicorns, we get songs about people working in slaughterhouses and throwing coke aside to fend for themselves, fond teenage memories of taking quaaludes and chilling memories of trying LSD, and dramatizations of actual traumatic incidents from Coyne’s early years.

In the group’s 2005 documentary the Intrepid freaks, we see old home movie footage of Coyne and his brothers enjoying a quintessentially American 70s teenage, playing football with the local shag hairs, before a darker narrative emerges – specifically of drug addiction that would drag her brother Tommy in and out of prison. American head one has the impression that he was born from this moment of lost innocence. While not a narrative concept album per se, each song feels like a vignette of a tragic sequel to Dazed and confused, where the reckless kicks of teens gave way to the ruthless realities of young adults. (And while it’s not an explicitly autobiographical work, revealingly one of its doomed characters is also called Tommy.)

” What’s wrong? / Now all your friends are gone, “Coyne sings over the album’s majestically melancholy opening,” Will You Return / When You Come Down, “and as American head plays out, this absence takes many forms. On the equally collapsed “Flowers of Neptune 6”, his old acid-eating buddies are sent to war or thrown in jail; on the moving orchestral centerpiece “Mother I’ve Taken LSD,” his youthful naivety turns to heartbreak as he sings about an addicted friend taken to a mental ward and another in intensive care after a motorcycle accident. But as the album title suggests, these kinds of crises are endemic to the American psyche and carry on for generations. While these songs may be loosely based on incidents from Coyne’s past, they speak deeply of the current situation in the country, where working-class teenagers are still often forced to choose between the military, drug addiction, prison, or the death. “Now I see the sadness in the world,” Coyne sings on this last track as the strings come in, “I’m sorry I didn’t see it before. It’s a line that hits particularly hard in 2020, when much of the world both yearns to return to the way things were before COVID while having their eyes open to social ills and inequalities. that were perpetrated.

More American head deals with this heavy subject matter with a light touch, framing his stories in a magical and realistic sunset atmosphere that gives even his most serious songs an earthly charm. The barnyard sound effects and peasant breakdown of “You n Me Sellin ‘Weed” – a folk ode to young amorous merchants – are reminiscent of the group’s more playful catalog in the mid-90s, as are the dixie guitar slides. -glam throughout the record that summon the spirit of the band’s former string bender Ronald Jones. And to add an authentic southern flavor, three tracks feature vocals from Kacey Musgraves, the latest pop star to step into the supersonic Lips circus. However, unlike their previous clashes with Kesha and Miley, Musgraves serves more to enhance the texture of the album’s summery medium, lending his wordless dreamy sighs to the instrumental “Watching the Lightbugs Glow” like someone familiar with the album. show, and floating in the background of his companion track “Flowers of Neptune 6” as if radiating harmonies from the afterlife. Even on their own duet “God and the Policeman”, she doesn’t so much grab the spotlight from Coyne as she plays the angel on his shoulder in a moment of crisis.

American head climaxed emotionally with the plaintive ballad “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad”, a fictional account of Coyne’s real life experience being robbed at gunpoint while working at a Long John’s Silver in the 1980s; here he imagines being shot and saying goodbye to his mom with gravitas worthy of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, before the hypnotic psych-jazz sequel to the song “When We Die When You’re High” propels him towards white light. But American head comes to a calming full circle conclusion with “My Religion is You,” which provides a practical measure of how much lips have changed in the past 30 years – and how much they haven’t changed .

Sure In an ambulance driven by a priest, the Lips capped an ensemble of sacred psychedelia with a ramshackle but serious cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” – a first indication of Coyne’s future role as alternative rock’s leading motivational speaker. “My Religion Is You” is an infinitely more elegant performance, but Coyne’s affinity for a simple, upbeat sentiment remains. On the surface it’s a devotional song expressed in the language of heretics – “I don’t need religion,” Coyne sings, “all I need is you.” But, at the end of a record that is largely about fighting loss and change, “My Religion Is You” is an open invitation to hold on to whatever it is – whether it’s Jesus, Buddha or, in Coyne’s case, the family – it can help make this scary world a little more wonderful.


Acheter: Rough Trade

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