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December 14, 2017


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Flaming Lips
Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid 1983-1988 -and- The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg 1989-1991 (Rykodisc)

By: Alex Steininger

Two discs, Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid 1983-1988 and The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg 1989-1991 chronicle The Flaming Lips first eight years, including two EPs, four full-lengths, and plenty of hard-to-find and unreleased material.

Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid 1983-1988 is a 3-disc set documenting the band through their first four releases. You'll find the band's debut EP, The Flaming Lips EP (disc 1), in which front man Wayne Coyne's brother Mark handles lead vocals (The Flaming Lips EP is the only recording of the band's original line-up). It also contains the band's debut full-length, Hear It Is (disc 1), Oh My Gawd, the Lips' second full-length (disc 2), and Telepathic Surgery, the Lips third full-length (disc 3). Each disc also contains several outtakes, demos, and unreleased material from the respective period.

The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg 1989-1991 is a two-disc set. On disc one you'll find the band's seminal 1990 album, In A Priest Driven Ambulance and several more outtakes and demos that didn't make it on to the album.

Disc two of The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg 1989-1991 contains The Mushroom Tapes, an oft-bootlegged collection of demos, most of which were later cut for In A Priest Driven Ambulance and the Unconsciously Screamin' EP. Disc two also contains several alternate takes from In A Priest Driven Ambulance, as well as compilation contributions from the period.

The Flaming Lips are now one of the most talked about, critically praised, and influential bands in the world. The recent release of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Warner Bros.) is a landmark, one of the ten best records ever recorded, and a testament to the genius of The Lips. It is also nearly two decades of hard work and dedication to their craft paying off, as they fully realize their vision and put it to tape.

But they had to start somewhere, and Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid and The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg are two collections that cover the Restless days perfectly and without pulling any punches. Giving you everything The Flaming Lips were about up until their 1992 Warner Bros. debut, Hit To Death In The Future Head.

Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid with the 1984 release The Flaming Lips EP, in which Mark Coyne sing lead. Blending psychedelic rock with garage, even early on The Lips refused to stick to one sound or genre, bending the rules and mix-matching sounds to come up with something very distinctive, a rarity for a band that much in their infancy.

On Hear It Is finds Wayne Coyne taking over lead vocals, and drummer Richard English replacing Dave Kostka. Equally chaotic, the full-length matches the intensity of the EP, preferring post-punk a la contemporaries like Husker Du over the psychedelic/garage combination of the EP.

Though, even when they play it fast and loud, fitting in perfectly with the 80's college post-punk movement, they still go beyond anything anyone else is doing, implementing their psychedelic touch to everything, resulting in a oft-haunting, crazed explosion of passion and fury.

The bonus tracks on disc one give us even more insight into the band's mindset at the time, as we hear their sloppy, guitar-laden pieces buzz and scream while exuding a care-free punk rock attitude (including their cover of the "Batman Theme").

Oh My Gawd is The Flaming Lips in full experimental mood, forgoing the punk tendencies of their earlier recordings and exploring the most outside-the-box ideas they can come up with, as they give new meaning to psychedelia. And though they go deep into their own subconscious to touch upon the roots of genius, their ideas don't fully blossom (yet!) so they splash in a few twisted rocker to bend your mind.

The highlight of Oh My Gawd is the epic nine-minute "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning", a song that epitomized everything the band represented. Another highlight is "Love Yer Brain", a seemingly melancholy piano pop piece that turns from beauty to horror as the band smashes the piano with a sledgehammer at the end of the song, making sure to capture it all on tape.

The bonus tracks on the album hint at previous Lips material, going back to the frenetic punk leanings not found on Oh My Gawd.

The final disc of Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid, disc three, offers Telepathic Surgery. Telepathic Surgery is yet another leap forward for the band. Shorter songs and more self restraint mark the album, their attitude more punk than experimental this time around, going for the rowdy and in-your-face over the subconscious, though they are never ones to pass up a chance to fuck with your mind. Live versions of "Jesus Shooting Heroin" (Hear It Is), My Own Planet (The Flaming Lips EP), and a remix of "Can't Stop The Spring (Oh My Gawd) help fill out the bonus tracks and close out the 3-disc set.

You now are fully educated on the pre-Warner Bros. life of The Flaming Lips? Think again. Putting in The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg shows up the Lips still had several tricks up their sleeves (tricks that would keep coming well up to their current release).

In A Priest Driven Ambulance, described by many as The Lips first truly brilliant release, marks an end of an era, the record that landed the band a deal with Warner Bros., and help forever guarantee their indie rock legacy.

With their most cohesive release (and undergoing another line-up change, as guitarist Jonathan Donahue and drummer Nathan Roberts join the band), The Lips deliver a spellbinding, articulate, and smart collection of pop songs. Not just your standard pop songs. Pop songs that owed as much to The Lips early garage and punk days as they do the band's current status as pop visionaries. In A Priest Driven Ambulance more than hints at where The Lips eventually went, while tying in their past.

The tracks span the Lips' gamut, from all-out punk rock, loose psychedelia, and experimental rock.

Closing out The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg are a pile of demos and the Unconsciously Screamin' EP, yet another new twist in The Lips saga, as they explore several more dimensions to their complex, chillingly schizophrenic sound.

After listening to all five discs, the truth, lies, and story of the Flaming Lips is told in great detail. Bonuses include liner notes for both packages, rare photos, and plenty of insight from the band and Coyne himself. I'll give these both an A+; they are must own records for everyone who ever considered themselves a fan of The Flaming Lips.

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