'one of the essential albums of the 00's'
'the greatest album released in Q [magazine]'s lifetime'
'the best pop album ever made'.
You've heard the rave reviews SOMEWHERE at least, if not EVERYWHERE. When The Flaming Lips released 'The Soft Bulletin' in 1999, they were praised for taking a step away from their inaccesible psychedelia towards more focused melodies. What music journalists, critics, and fans the world over were not expecting, however, was the F'lips' followup, 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots'.
'Yoshimi' represents many things in music today. First off, it shows blatant disregard to the "serious" nature of modern songwriting. Songs like the title track show a playful, wide-eyed enthusiasm that is really what makes the F'lips so charming. Secondly, 'Yoshimi' is a refusal of trendy neo-retro, in favour of the timeless formula of good hook+musical integrity+all talent, no wank. But the most important thing about 'Yoshimi'? it's both fantastic AND accesible.
In an age where post-rock, drone-metal and ambient music are the indie kid bread-n-butter, the F'lips make pop music. More straightforward than Bjork, more spaced-out than Franz Ferdinand, and more playful than Nick Cave. This is pop in the true sense of the word - not lip-syncing starlets with black nail polish and overdone video clips - but music that embraces infectious melody and bouncing rythym with refrain and wisdom.
From the word 'go' (almost literally), 'Yoshimi' delivers the goods. 'Fight Test' ponders the virtues of confrontation over a moog-soaked Beach Boys hook, and 'One More Robot' debates the possibility of human emotion occuring in robots.
Funny? Kinda. Silly? Never. Bizzare? Always.
The albums real hook appears in the title track, with sing-song chorus drawing the listener into a world of pastel coloured folk music, while its second half dissents into screaming, avalanching, cartoonish psychedelia.
Yoshimi sports various themes, with the groove-bass of 'Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell' and the dripping synths and metronomic drumming of 'Are You A Hypnotist??' contrasting but starkly familar feels: Both these songs are clearly very different, but could only come from a singular album.
The albums strongest track, the near-universally loved 'Do You Realize??' is enamoured with sweeping strings, chiming bells, and relentless acoustic guitar strummings, providing a stage for the one of the saddest, happiest, and most moving songs the F'lips, or any band for that matter, have ever written.
"Do you realize... happiness makes you cry?" asks Wayne Coyne, before dropping the songs most crucially beautiful line: "Do you realize.. everyone you know, someday, will die?".
The albums closer, 'Approaching Pavis Mons By Balloon', plays big-band horns and dusty drumbeats up to the clever melodies of the F'lips, giving closure to a brilliant, albeit confusing album.
Uplifting, depressing, beautiful and sombre, 'Yoshimi' is an essential nugget of musical inspiration - neither cosmic nor pop - but fulfilling a beautiful space in between, giving modern music something it sorely needs: a sense of fun.