From the few albums I’ve listened to, The Flaming Lips are an American rock band with stylistically eclectic albums that dabble and weave in a variety of styles. Their most impressive and listenable album, in my opinion, is Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The songs are rich in melodies that counter the layered instrumental harmonies in the background, and with the added sound effects, no gap is left unfilled. The Flaming Lips are sonic thirst-quenchers.
The man-versus-machine theme pervades nearly the first half of the album, and then continues, generally, on a futuristic theme. When you follow the narrative within the lyrics, the sound effects give the impression that the songs take place in a Colosseum of the future.
Fight Test opens the album in a live setting and introduces the theme of time. The lyrics are mentoric as they narrate personal experiences of winning and losing in a melody bearing striking resemblance to Cat Stevens‘s Father and Son.
One More Robot/ Sympathy 3000-21 is more futuristic in its narration of robots learning to understand and display emotions. Metaphorically, the song suggests that future humans are so mechanised that they lose that which distinguished them from machines. The lyrics depict these ‘robots’ realising this, and therefore relearning to be human.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Parts 1 and 2 introduce the character of the album. An ordinary Japanese girl by the name Yoshimi is training to defeat the machines, and battles them in a bombastic and extremely colourful instrumental in which she- SPOILER ALERT!– ultimately wins.
In the Morning of the Magicians is a calmer song with a melancholic undertone, with the lyrics questioning what love and hate are, and why they mean a great deal.
Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell is a slower song reduced to a simple rhythmic accompaniment and groovy bass riff. This, and the addition of echoing vocals, give the impression of an ego suspended in space.
Are You a Hypnotist? is a down-tempo song. Although simple in texture, it builds increasingly builds in tension through the low chords of the synthesised organ and the later addition of harmonising, operatic vocals.
It’s Summertime is another slow and melancholic song. Aspects of it that stand out the most are the subtle changes from the major to the minor key in the vocal melody. The reverberating bass also gives the song a cosmic atmosphere, particularly towards the end.
The lyrics speak for themselves in the phat sound and rich melodies highly reminiscent of ELO within Do You Realise?
All we Have is Now takes on a futuristic perspective that reminds us of the fleeing nature of time and the importance of being in the present.
The album finishes with the groovy instrumental Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia), where the ad-lib vocals far in the background sound very similar to Pink Floyd‘s The Great Gig in the Sky.
In all, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a highly enjoyable listen for its rich sonic atmosphere, intricate harmonies, and story-like lyrics in the theme of a clockwork future.