Car accidents, spider bites, and head wounds are just a few of the subjects at the center of the Flaming Lips' 1999 album "The Soft Bulletin." But the album isn't dark, jarring, or the least bit disruptive. In fact, it's nothing... [more]
Car accidents, spider bites, and head wounds are just a few of the subjects at the center of the Flaming Lips' 1999 album "The Soft Bulletin." But the album isn't dark, jarring, or the least bit disruptive. In fact, it's nothing if not light. This kind of light might be "chemically derived." Or is it electronically contrived?
In any case, the album represents the Flaming Lips at the most well-crafted, breathtaking point in their lengthy career. Even as they reach cosmic proportions, with shining strings and heavenly voices, they don't neglect the minutiae. A flurry of acutely timed guitar licks and the treble rhythms of drums flow beneath an anthemic arc. Everything is simultaneously stupendous and small: the meek high-pitched voice of Wayne Coyne whines beside seraphic voices descended from on high. The fragility at the center of the sound invokes the entire cosmos.
You feel near death. Yes, the case could be made that the light pervading the music of the Flaming Lips is the light at the end of the tunnel. "The Soft Bulletin" emits such a light (posing as sweet oblivion or enticing love) even as it overwhelms and softly destroys. This album is about being softly, pleasantly struck -' by a car, a bullet, love. The songs trace the gentle disintegration that ensues. But this disintegration is by no means dark: it is the brightness of light becoming diffuse. Like a Turner painting, these songs have a cosmic, euphoric glow that spreads blissfully throughout their entirety.
It's a little overwhelming. The music seems to expand until it becomes almost impossibly large. One song openly inquires, "Is it getting heavy?" Clearly, it is. But in enjoyable confusion, you realize, "It was already as heavy as it could be." A mere spoonful weighs a ton. It's like love: you don't understand why.
The album may be the culmination of an entire career. Since 1983, the band has made music that's sometimes crunchy, sometimes silly, and always with an off-kilter emotional quality. Critics have claimed, though, that "The Soft Bulletin" makes the rest of the Lips' work irrelevant. It's true that something singular happened in 1999. An auspicious accident, no doubt. [show less]