It’s fascinating to see all manner of opinion about the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots before arriving at my own.
Mainstream and independent media (magazines, fanzines and the like) are pretty much a Greek chorus of accolades, stating variations on the same theme — not as mind-blowing as The Soft Bulletin but certainly the best of the year!
Fans and listeners, however, are more direct — where are the electric guitars? We want guitars!
I only discovered the Flaming Lips with The Soft Bulletin, so personally, I don’t mind the electro-orchestral direction Wayne Coyne and company pursue on Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
Hands down, Yoshimi is so far the year’s most beauteous album. Coyne has polished his vocal performance, sanding away the rough edges and leaving an emotive rasp.
And while all the electronic effects, pseudo-orchestral arrangements and dramatic segues produce some gorgeous results, the acoustic guitars chiming throughout the album gives it a human anchor.
But there might be some credence to fan criticism of Yoshimi. The album pretty much sticks to a medium tempo range, no rocking beats, no overt ballads. And strip away all the effects from these songs, what would you get? Something pretty dark, it seems.
Yoshimi should be given credit, though, for following the creative path forged by The Soft Bulletin without retreading its terrain. This album isn’t a sequel, but if both albums were turned into movies, they’d make a great double feature.
In other words, if you really liked The Soft Bulletin, then you might … blah, blah, blah …
If anything, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots would have sounded incredible with a live orchestra performing the parts assigned to synthesizers. Include all the man-made effects and the rock beats, and it’s the modular soundtrack to Robotech all over again. (Best. Score. Ever.)
In the end, it’s a matter of taste. Yoshimi stands heads above the rest when it comes to style and scope, and even if it’s too lush for some long-timers, it’s better than any nu metal poster boys or emo flavor of the week.
P.S. Although Yoshimi marks Dave Fridmann’s most ambitious production work this year, Number Girl’s Num-Heavymetallic sports his best behind-the-console twiddling.
Yoshimi critics are right — Fridmann can do a whole lot with a band who aren’t afraid to hammer their guitars.