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Spins: Flaming Lips: The EPs

| June 12, 2023


The Flaming Lips

Hypnotist vinyl EP

Fight Test vinyl EP

Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell vinyl EP

(Warner Records)

Released in conjunction with the Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 20th-anniversary campaign, these three EPs add to the picture of The Flaming Lips’ surging power during a period of peak creativity while simultaneously edging into mainstream popularity. This material is now available on vinyl for the first time, serving as a companion to the recent 5-LP vinyl Deluxe Edition of Yoshimi. Fans with copies of the 6-CD Deluxe Edition will already have the singles, b-sides, demos, radio sessions, and remixes collected on these three EPs, but the new releases will be essential to any vinyl completist or to anyone fascinated with the interrelated paintings created by Wayne Coyne during the original Yoshimi era. The Hypnotist EP on pink vinyl features the 25-minute demo “Psychedelic Hypnotist Daydream,” which blends abandoned audio from 4-track experiments with accidental sounds from inverted demos cassettes. The results alternate between tuneful, trippy, unsettling, and beautiful. Other tracks include the demo for the orchestral “James Bond Theme”-styled “Duck Dodgers Theme,” with Coyne’s raspy and comically melodramatic scratch vocal in place of Tom Jones’ swarthy studio take. “I Know I’ve Got to Make that Dream the Real Thing” includes the hook and a sketch for a hit that could have been. Coyne sings about closing the deal with a crush, accompanied by fuzzed-out rhythm guitar, dripping arpeggios, and a stuttering hip-hop vocal sample. The set concludes by highlighting resident musical mad scientist Steven Drozd’s work and David Fridmann’s production during the sweeping instrumental backing track for “Do You Realize??,” fusing electropop, synthesized orchestra, and shimmering acoustic guitar. The Fight Test EP on translucent red vinyl is a mini-album unto itself. The winsome single drips with the regret of a man who learns a hard lesson after choosing not to defend his principles and his relationship. “There are things you can’t avoid,” sings Coyne about the process of becoming a man. “You have to face them when you’re not prepared to face them.” Covers include a melodramatic performance of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Drozd plays acoustic piano for KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on a cover of Radiohead’s “Knives Out” and an off-the-cuff run through Beck’s “The Golden Age.” A nine-minute dance remix of “Do You Realize??” is skillfully rendered but ultimately unnecessary. More satisfying is the glistening synthpop experiment “The Strange Design of Conscience,” blending fluttering keyboards with Drozd’s melancholy New Order-styled guitar. Coyne’s lyric is a snippet of a brief heartfelt conversation with a friend, describing how both would likely respond to trying times in the community. Coyne and Drozd play a rustic countrified guitar duet during “Thank You Jack White (for the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me).” The story song is essentially self-explanatory by its title, taking a whimsical look at a true tale from life on the road. Appearing on pastel green vinyl, the Ego Tripping at the Gates of HellEP takes a different approach than most album offshoots. The title track does not appear in its original dreamy and starlit form from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots but is represented by a pair of clubby remixes. Dominated by this pair and yet another remix of “Do You Realize??” (this time by The Postal Service), this EP is somewhat less essential than its companions. Nonetheless, four non-album tracks offer their charms. With jingling sleigh bells, “A Change at Christmas (Say it Isn’t So)” finds Coyne wishing time could be stopped during the season when people are at their most open-hearted toward others. “Assassination of the Sun” is a trippy, twinkling, and gentle rumination on death. “I’m a Fly in a Sunbeam (Following the Funeral Procession of a Stranger)” continues the mood in instrumental form with Bacharach-styled synthesized horns contrasting sonics borrowed from side two of Dark Side of the Moon. The uplifting and euphoric “Sunship Balloons” is a cosmic ode to earthly love. Taken together, these EPs encapsulate the scope of the imaginative and productive period surrounding the release of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

– Jeff Elbel

Hypnotist: 6 of 10

Fight Test: 7 of 10

Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell: 5 of 10


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Category: Featured, Spins

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