The Flaming Lips Are The New Normal

Only in 2020 could the strangest and most-off kilter band to probably ever record for a major label could sound absolutely perfect. #flaminglips #altrock #COVID-19 #lonniedench

This program is dedicated to Lonnie Dench and his loved ones for reminding us all what giving thanks and family are truly all about.

At varying times during their now almost 40 year professional music career, somehow, you probably have been, albeit briefly, a fan or foe of The Flaming Lips. In the 1980’s, before Alternative Rock had found its place in the mainstream, The Lips were there soundtracking your dropping out of college. As one of the first of these bands to sign to a major label, you were also yelling sellout as the Warner Brothers Records logo appeared on the label. You weren’t supporting them, but oddly, a year old album track, “She Don’t Use Jelly”, was discovered on the animated MTV program Beavis and Butthead gave the band it’s only Hot 100 single and an appearance on the nighttime teen soap opera Beverly Hills 90210.

But then it gets weirder: After failing to follow-up this hit, in-fighting and drug use not only almost split up the band, one of the members even developed gangrene from heavy intravenous drug use. Reduced to a trio by 1998, instead of playing it safe, the band released a piece of music that could only be played on 4 mobile CD players in unison. Or not.

The Flaming Lips, 2002. (l-r) Michael Ivins, Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd. Courtesy of Uncut Magazine/Warner Bros. Records.

It is here that this program picks up on the Flaming Lips story. This isn’t a full retrospective, with the music in this show only going until 2009. However, it is during this period that The Flaming Lips truly defied all expectations and became not only NPR music program darlings, they also freaked out many of these same people by putting on one of the wildest, experimental and most imaginative series of releases, including eventually music on a flash drive in a gummy fetus and a live show that is 1977 KISS meets the cover of the album Disraeli Gears by Cream.

“I’m not wearing the bunny suit anymore.”

Steven Drodz

After feeling energized by the aforementioned 4CD experimental LP Zaireeka, the follow-up releases, The Soft Bulletin in 1999 and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots in 2002, were not only commercially successful, they became the 5.1 Dolby music gold standard and won over truckloads of critics, who called the two albums the best of their respective decades; they were also awarded the first of their several Grammy Awards.

Wayne Coyne, 2018, during the video shoot for “There Should Be Unicorns”. Photo courtesy of the band.

Never a band to rest on their laurels or play it safe, they released a film, yes, a real film, called Christmas on Mars, primarily shot in the band’s hometown of Oklahoma City, yes, that Oklahoma City. This thing is so indie it would make the films of Kevin Smith seem like Michael Bay blockbusters by comparison. They also decided again to alter their sound, in a sense returning to their the guitar crunch, high volume and absolute freak-out-ed-ness of their early work with their two highest charting releases, 2006’s At War With The Mystics and 2009’s Embryo, with both actually making the Billboard Top 15 on the LP charts with no Pop charting singles, which, by today’s standards, is almost seemingly impossible.

Later that year, the band would start a series of covering albums for actual release as titles in their catalogue, unlike Phish, who primarily do the same thing annually live on Halloween. They would release only two titles as the Flaming Lips, albeit much like the multitude of their EP’s during the last ten years, featured numerous guest spots, including artists as varied as Erykah Badu and Henry Rollins.

(l-r) Wanda Dench, Lonnie Dench and Jamal Hinton. Photo by Hinton, courtesy of Twitter.

It is during this period, from 1998 until early 2009, that the Flaming Lips proved the following: in a surreal world gone absolutely crazy, this music seems completely and perfectly in place, especially for those shuttered in at home for long stretches and going absolutely bonkers or those on the front lines at hospitals and grocery stores where chaos reins supreme. Welcome to the new soundtrack of our lives.

First Part

  • Okay I’ll Admit That I Really Don’t Understand, 1998, Zaireeka (Black Gypsy Pug is a Raccoon Baby Now Mix)
  • Thank You Jack White, 2003, Fight Test EP
  • Space Bible With Volume Lumps, 2008, Christmas On Mars
  • The Sound Of Failure, 2006, At War With The Mystics
  • The Spiderbite Song, 1999, The Soft Bulletin
  • Aquarius Sabotage, 2009, Embryonic

Second Part

  • Race For The Prize, 1999, The Soft Bulletin
  • Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Parts 1 and 2, 2002, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
  • The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine, 2009, Embryonic
  • Sunship Balloons, 2003, Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell EP
  • The W.A.N.D., 2006, At War With The Mystics


  • Do You Realize??, 2002, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Producer, Audio Engineer, Webmaster, Researcher and Writer

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