Review Summary: In a Priest Driven Ambulance marks an exciting new phase for The Flaming Lips both conceptually and sonically.
Sometimes all a band needs is time, time to come into its own, time to discover its voice. For The Flaming Lips, In a Priest Driven Ambulance
was that discovery. It was the start of a new era for the psychedelic rockers. In essence, this was the first truly great Flaming Lips album. In a Priest Driven Ambulance
is an expansion of the band's initial sound, mustering noisier guitars and unorthodox lyrical themes to build a grouping of tracks with more muscle.
It's rather surprising how much of a shift the album is from their previous album, Telepathic Surgery
. On In a Priest Driven Ambulance
, the guitars are muddier and more sinewy, and Wayne Coyne's vocals are persistently shrill and sometimes saccharine. Overall, the band sounds more like a noise rock band than an acid punk outfit. And it surely serves them well; they sound more rambunctious than ever before. However, what makes this album a landmark for The Lips is its wealth of great songs, something that previous records stumbled to yield consistently. Highlight "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain" alone is as much an astonishing realization as it is an eccentric power ballad that only The Lips could have begotten.
What's more is that the album is conceptually cohesive, melding its electric outbreaks and downtempo acoustic stretches with ironic religious themes. Instead of using the album to deify some mystical, cosmic entity, Wayne Coyne questions the reasoning behind it. On the track "There You Are: Jesus Song No. 7", he sings, "You stand in the rain and the rain fills your brain and it makes you think that God was f***ed up when he made this town". Throughout the album, Wayne seems to hold onto his religious frustration and the hopes of unearthing a spiritual awakening that never arrives. "Shine on Sweet Jesus: Jesus Song No. 5" exposes his fixation on the idea of a man who is always by one's side to protect that person from harm and desperation.
All this inner turmoil brings about some very heated songs, like "Rainin' Babies", where the guitars and drums together mesh together on a monumental platform. The impressive scale of the track is sustained on "Take Meta Mars", where the drums are magnified as Wayne's voice enters a perpetual climb. In a Priest Driven Ambulance
basically eviscerates any monotonous instrumentation and treats the distorted guitars, punchy drums, and pounding feedback as a sort of emblem for the band's expansion. However, the album never uproots The Lips' freakish temperament. Just because the album sounds more astute does not mean that the group has jettisoned its unruly disposition.
As a matter of fact, The Lips hit harder than ever. "Unconsciously Screamin'" is Wayne Coyne's version of an edgy rock anthem, and it's refreshing to hear The Lips get it off their chest with utter authority. Although the first half of the album certainly has more to chew on, The Lips make a vociferous exit with the grimy "Mountain Side" and their half-decent cover of "What a Wonderful World". Finally, the album shows off its multiple dimensions, at times hoisting its proclivities for volume and breadth and at other times resembling angst-laden folk music. As Wayne's internal conflict sizzles beneath the surface, The Lips together release all the steam.
In a Priest Driven Ambulance
is a terrific example of a blossoming collective throbbing with stamina. They utilize heavier instrumentation to create a stimulating encapsulation of young bemusement. In the process, The Flaming Lips produce some fantastic tunes, showing that they are beginning to locate their singular charm. Also, they prove that they are clearly open to new ideas and spontaneous pursuits of the obscurities of life.
Five Stop Mother Superior Rain
Take Meta Mars
There You Are: Jesus Song No. 7