Review Summary: Telepathic Surgery is a small misstep in The Flaming Lips' career, containing good ideas that fail to translate into notable songs.
When The Flaming Lips dropped their second album, Oh My Gawd!!!
, their sights were seemingly set on a new image, a new sound altogether. Although that album put them on a more interesting avenue, The Lips responded to two forward steps with a step backwards on their follow-up, Telepathic Surgery
. Looking at it now, the experimentation is there, but the keenness has taken a bit of a U-turn. As a result, Telepathic Surgery
gracelessly drags its feet along, way too parched for its own good.
So what exactly has gone wrong with this record? First of all, every component on here sounds halfhearted, whether it be the ashen guitars or Wayne's inconsistent vocals. Nothing on here really captures the lovable quirks and amiable trances that the band has been known to embrace. Rather the band reverts to the worn-out acid punk sounds that influenced its previous albums and haphazardly appends wildly aimless sonic experiments to those core sounds. There are indeed some very surprising and off-kilter moments which indicate that the audacious ideas are there, yet they are spread ever so thin by weak songwriting and little to no attentiveness to flow.
However, the overall sound is the album's biggest downer. The barren guitars not only bring forth nothing exciting, but they also are too heavily relied upon to sound this boring. In fact the only song that fully presents something fresh with the guitar is the short interlude "The Spontaneous Combustion of John". The first song, "Drug Machine In Heaven" sounds like a re-hash of the dull "Unplugged" from their debut and serves to show that The Lips have not evolved much stylistically with this record. "Right Now" starts off with more zest and a grating riff, but the flame is quickly extinguished by a horribly unimaginative chorus and predictable progression. Nonetheless, on this song and on other songs throughout the album, what actually stands out instrumentally is the drumming. The percussion is often high-octane and frenetic, and thankfully it never entirely stays in line with the guitars, lending itself more autonomy.
In addition, there are a few relatively enjoyable songs on here like "Chrome Plated Suicide", "Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon (F*** Led Zeppelin), and "Redneck School of Technology". On these songs, The Lips sound much looser and more agreeably impulsive. However, outside these moments, The Lips lack any discernible drive. Some brief tracks like "Michael, Time to Wake Up" seem utterly useless and empty numbers like "Begs and Achin'" are pretty unexciting. As the album advances, The Lips continuously aspire to make their music bizarre, but none of their studio tricks are all that mesmerizing or worthwhile.
Throughout the befuddling mess that is Telepathic Surgery
, there still is humor to detect and ambition to recognize. However, the band's efforts to blindside the listener with non sequiturs prove frustrating and meaningless. Here, The Lips still sound like a recalcitrant punk band with a profusion of drugs at their disposal. Thus, the ideas on this album never rock the boat or push the music to places the band hasn't been before.
represents a small misstep in the band's early career. Its predecessors were by no means earth-shattering, but they at least signaled a gradual discovery of the band's inborn capabilities. This album hopelessly struggles to unite those capabilities with notable composition and falls flat rather quickly. Luckily, that unity would finally come to fruition with their next album, so Telepathic Surgery
's disappointments would not be in vain.
Chrome Plated Suicide
Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon (F*** Led Zeppelin)
The Spontaneous Combustion of John