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The Flaming Lips : Strobo Trip

Track artwork

As someone who has followed Oklahoman psych-pop pranksters the Flaming Lips on and off for the past fifteen years, I find it hard to believe anyone could be genuinely surprised by their latest bizarre stunt. I remember, back in the days before mp3s, the band releasing their single “This Here Giraffe” on a star-shaped CD. Not long after that they conducted the infamous “parking lot boom-box experiment”; then they released Zaireeka, an album spread across four discs intended to be played simultaneously. Next came the Top Of The Pops appearance where they were joined onstage by Justin Timberlake (dressed in a fluffy dolphin costume, obviously), the Christmas On Mars movie and the track-by-track cover of Dark Side Of The Moon (featuring Henry Rollins, natch), while 2011 alone has seen collaborations with The Books, Neon Indian and Lightning Bolt, as well as songs on flash-drives embedded in strawberry and marijuana-flavoured gummy skulls. So while a six-hour – yes, that’s right, SIX HOUR long – song is undeniably a pretty remarkable feat, you’ll forgive me if it fails to cause any raised eyebrows. What is surprising, however, is the way “Found A Star On The Ground” – the monstrous centerpiece of the Strobo Trip “EP” – manages to maintain a steadfast grip on the listener’s attention: riding a lurching, propulsive groove centered around Kliph Scurlock’s tireless, martial drumming, the piece expands on ideas first explored on 2009’s Embryonic, shifting and mutating almost imperceptibly as various instruments and recurring motifs drift in and out of the mix, forming several distinct movements. To try and describe the track beyond that seems pointless: it’s something that needs to be heard – to be experienced – to be appreciated, but for a simplified point of reference think the driving Krautrock rhythms of Can’s “Mother Sky” interspersed with nods to Tangerine Dream’s droning komische mood music. Besides the relentless, rolling drums, the only real hook is Wayne Coyne’s repeated, shakily-crooned intonation of the titular phrase, but astonishingly “Found A Star” still stands alongside “Do You Realize” and “Race For The Prize” as one of the Lips’ most addictive earworms; in fact, strip away the spectacle – the sheer size – of the song, and it holds its own against most of the greatest music of the past forty years. And therein lies the problem: the size of the thing defines the song, making it virtually impossible to see past, and unless you have an abnormal amount of spare time on your hands it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear it more than a couple of times the way the band intended. Were it edited it down proportionally into a 70-minute or double LP-length suite, it would probably be the album of the year (hell, of the decade). As it is, the best approach is probably to skip to a random point, listen for an hour and hope that you don’t land on one of the 45-minute ambient interludes. It would seem, however, that the group themselves disagree, as they have already gone one step further: currently streaming on their website is a new song lasting 24 hours…

Listen: “Found A Star On The Ground”  http://soundcloud.com/slowonerveoaction-3/the-flaming-lips-i-found-a

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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