YES, THERE MAY BE A VERY BIG GONG INVOLVED Hitlist THE BEST ROCK, POP, JAZZ & FOLK*
✽✽ Mark Eitzel and Franz Nicolay The yin and yang of indie troubadourism: American Music Club man Eitzel’s tortured musings are the antithesis of Hold Steady dandy Nicolay’s spry solo work. Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sat 7 Nov. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Muse Newest album The Resistance might not have taken Muse into new territory but they still pride themselves on being the live rock show proposition. SECC, Glasgow, Mon 9 Nov. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Bronto Skylift After catching this incendiary duo’s discordant post-grunge maelstrom at TitP we’ve been impatiently awaiting their return. See preview, page 63. Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Fri 13 Nov. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Shred Yr Face Another fizzing bill for this quality tour of underground venues with US folk prodigies Espers with The Cave Singers and Woods. Stereo, Glasgow, Fri 13 Nov; Electric Circus, Edinburgh, Sat 14 Nov. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ The Flaming Lips See preview, left. O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sun 15 Nov. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ La Roux The whey faced robot pop chanteuse has delighted and outraged in equal measure, which is always the sign of a truly great pop star. Go and judge which side you’re on. ABC, Glasgow, Mon 16 Nov. (Rock & Pop) ✽✽ Staff Benda Bilili A truly amazing story behind some breathtaking music: a band of homeless paraplegic musicians from Kinshasa, Congo, whose ragged funk blues is a truly unique sound. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 17 Nov. (Folk) ✽✽ Mariachi El Bronx It’s a simple enough idea: take a monster NYC punk band and have them form a Mexican mariachi band. Believe me, it works. See 5 Reasons, page 67. Oran Mor, Glasgow, Wed 18 Nov. (Rock & Pop) 5–19 Nov 2009 THE LIST 61
From narcotic haze to surreal crowd pleasers via drive-in musicals and sci-fi movies, The Flaming Lips are true musical originals. Mark Robertson explains why
Y ou know that bullshit cliché about trodding the path less trodden in the name of artistic endeavour? Well, The Flaming Lips didn’t even know that path was there. And it didn’t matter, they made their route from the ‘burbs of Oklahoma City to their own inner and outer space, constructing musical technicolour odysseys like no other.
This month they return with a new platter – Embryonic – an album which illustrates the limitless possibilities of The Flaming Lips. A sideways step away from the day-glo electro pop of 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (the album that thrust them into the mainstream gaze), Embryonic is a nocturnal trip into the dank, weird corners of the band’s collective psyche, taking a few detours to reach morsels of idyllic pop fluff and some theatrical rock antics. Yes, there may be a very big gong involved.
Formed in 1983, as a punk rock act who fused the unhinged joys of 60s psychedelia with the energy of early 80s post punk and the stadium rockisms of The Who and Led Zeppelin, they thrived in the murky underworld of American alt.rock for nearly a decade before hitting relative commercial pay dirt with single ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ in 1992, being carried along with MTV’s grunge affections of the time. They’ve indulged in a number of brave experiments along the way: from their festive feature film Christmas on Mars to a series of live shows in parking lots where people brought their cars to play special cassettes like some auto orchestra and Zaireeka, a four-CD album that had to be played simultaneously.
Bulletin a breathtaking mix of effervescent joy and cosmic melancholy. This upward trajectory continued with 2002’s Yoshimi . . ., and their live shows increased in scale, drama and spectacle to the point when audience members became costumed extras – aliens, superheroes, forest animals, Santas, even Jesuses – to add to the confetti strewn mayhem.
The Flaming Lips’ willingness to trade in the unconventional in part explains the number of hairpin bends in Embryonic. In an interview with Pitchfork.com this month frontman Wayne Coyne explained how the band battle between writing conventional songs and just jamming, and it was the fruits of the latter that produced this album. They’ve faced up to their demons – death, drug use, paranoia, aging, human frailty – head on, with a candour and frankness that belies their standing as rock top billers. Wayne Coyne cheerily admits there’s a lack of self-consciousness that only adds to their appeal. He told Pitchfork:
‘We played with Coldplay in these stadiums in September, playing to 65,000 teenagers who all love Chris Martin – an audience that had no idea who we were. And we would get dancers [from the crowd], and they’d be on stage with us. I’d talk to some of them backstage, and they’d say, “I don’t know your songs, but I really like that nasty song that you played the shakers on.” That’s ‘Convinced of the Hex’ [from Embryonic]. And I would think, “That’s a weird song for a 16-year-old girl to like.” But I believe them.’
They came into their own with 1999’s The Soft O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sun 15 Nov.