Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 23)

23. "Race For the Prize"
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Year: 1999

I was a bandwagon jumper. Prior to 'The Soft Bulletin,' I had never given the Flaming Lips a moment's notice. Here in America, the band had made some noise in '93 with the silly "She Don't Use Jelly." Thankfully, I was in Japan then and had missed the attention completely. Use of the song on MTV's "Beavis and Butthead" propelled the song to minor hit territory. If I had been around for all of that, I'm quite sure it would have clouded my willingness to give 'The Soft Bulletin' a listen six years later. I do hold musical grudges, and that could have been a deal breaker.

Wayne and the fellas should (and I think will) be remembered for this masterpiece. I explored a few of the band's earlier albums after the release of 'The Soft Bulletin,' and it confirmed that the leap made at the end of the century was nothing less than astounding. Some critics have gone so far as to call it that era's 'Pet Sounds.' I'm not touching that one, but the arrangements and tone sure make it feel grand. 'Yoshimi' was a terrific followup, but I feel there have been only a few nice moments since then. The Flaming Lips have always felt like a band just about to go off the rails, and you're bound to have quite a few failures when you're willing to take so many left turns. I don't buy their music anymore, but I like knowing they are still out there spreading their brand of wackiness. I hope you got to see the Lips in their heyday. In 2002, they opened for Beck and then backed up the headliner for the rest of the show, and I would place it high on my list of all-time show experiences.

7 comments:

Echorich said...

Someday I will figure out if I like this band or not. It helps if I don't have to look at them, their image letting down any imagined imagery of the band making songs like this...Wayne Coyne is obviously a nutter/genius - something there isn't enough of in Rock & Roll, but I am more satisfied with their singles output over album output. I know I tend to be hard on American bands, it's a cross I willingly bear...

charity chic said...

I posted stuff from Yoshimi recently and the general consensus was that that and The Soft Bulletin were the ones to have

TheRobster said...

I did a piece abut my experience of seeing the Flaming Lips live. While their show is undoubtedly spectacular, I came away thinking Wayne Coyne was a self-indulgent prick whose love of himself will always dwarf that of his collective fanbase.

You are right that Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi were brilliant, brilliant records. Everything before then was a slow-build before the peak; everything after was a dramatic decline of pretentious rubbish and publicity stunts with little in the way of music actually worth listening to.

Am I being harsh?

Brian said...

Echorich,
I don't mean to pigeonhole you, but I never pictured you liking these guys. Then again, you have been known to surprise me. So, I would recommend giving the Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi a quick listen. Like me, I know this is not your favorite time for music, but the Soft Bulletin is one of those albums I can point to that helped me out of my funk.

CC,
I remember that post. I have dragged this list on for so long that nearly all of my favorite bloggers have written about the bands in my top 50 these past months. I'm with you on Yoshimi, but I like the Soft Bulletin a little bit better.

Robster,
I wish I could say you are being too harsh, but I'm in complete agreement. Wayne was still ok in my book when I saw them in '02, but I don't think I could sit through his shenanigans now. The bright spots I mentioned post Yoshimi were all on At War With the Mystics in '06... a few songs on a mediocre album. Stunts like With a Little Help from My Fwends cannot be forgiven. I will not return. If I'm completely honest with myself, Race for the Prize should be higher on this list, but I'm sure I have a bias now because of the band's more recent history.

Swiss Adam said...

I think all the comments above are about right- I have a massive soft spot for The W.A.N.D. too. But the decline after that was pretty quick.

Ian Balentine said...

I think the 4 album run from Transmissions From The Satellite Heart through Yoshimi (minus Zaireeka, have only heard certain tracks from that one so I can't comment) were one of the best in the history of music. After Yoshimi they started to slide into Miley Cyrus/cover album/gummy bear ridiculousness, culminating in their version of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music album, The Terror. It's one of saddest slides in the history of music, I reckon. But this song, and SB in particular, will always be a highlight for me and remain fantastic listens to this day.

Brian said...

Adam, Yep. One of few I like post Yoshimi too.

E, I knew you were a big fan. Was hoping I would hear from you. I'm not into much before the Soft Bulletin, but there are a couple of songs that I really like. Pilot Can at the Queer of God and Lightning Strikes the Postman come to mind. As Robster said, slow build before the peak. No defenders of the work from the past decade or so.