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Static - Episode 30 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips is featured in this week's Static (12/23/2009)
George Lang Modified: October 14, 2010 at 10:59 am •  Published: December 23, 2009

Wayne Coyne's job requires him to stay up late a lot, but when the shows or sessions are over, and everyone else has gone to bed, he's the kind of guy who's likely to keep burning the midnight lamp deep into the night, looking for weird ways to entertain himself.
Consequently, inspiration sometimes strikes the Flaming Lips leader at 2 in the morning. Like the night he went digging through manager Scott Booker's collection of old laser discs and found a copy of Liliana Cavani's "The Night Porter," an artfully sleazy Italian film made in 1974 and set in 1957 about a sado-masochistic affair between an ex-Nazi (Dirk Bogarde) and a woman (Charlotte Rampling) he used to abuse sexually in Auschwitz.But Coyne couldn't figure out how to get the sound to work on producer Dave Fridmann's vintage player, so he watched the film without audio and could only imagine what the story and characters were all about."So, I think I ended up seeing it three or four times without even the sound going, just wondering what the (heck) was going on here, and then kind of having my own version of what I thought was happening there," Coyne said in an interview with The Oklahoman last week.Then one night he figured out the right button to push and watched the movie with sound."And I thought, 'Oh my God, here's what's happening here,'" he said. "And so, not necessarily because I liked it so much, I just was intrigued by the twist in the story ...."It's this twist that informs a lot of the lyrics on the Flaming Lips' 13th official studio album, "Embryonic," a sprawling exploration of new sounds and cryptic poetry that was released this week and more than justifies the band's reputation as fearless experimentalists — or freaks, as they prefer."I was singing about the dimensions of this movie that kind of shocked me or that I liked or were interesting or whatever, and I started to sing about the nature of evil and the nature of pleasure and the nature of submission and dominating, and all these things that I thought the music was kind of hinting at," he said.Coyne, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins and drummer Kliph Scurlock had since 2006 been thinking of attempting a double album that would afford them room to stretch, indulge in extended free-form jams, "let the music go where it wanted to," according the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist.Known in recent times for referencing their more melodic Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd and latter-day Beatles influences on the majestically tuneful "The Soft Bulletin" and the uplifting, lushly-produced "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," the Lips have concocted an 18-track epic that harks back to the kind of acid-damaged noise-pop they did in the '80s.Arrangements such as the lo-fi and dissonant "Convinced of the Hex" and the electronic train wreck cacophony of "Scorpio Sword" follow no traditional or predictable song structure blueprint, but there are exceptions, such as the sad, synthesized, lamenting beauty of "Evil" and the haunting harps, stinging twang and celestial electronic instrumentation that surrounds Coyne's disturbing vocal reflections on animalistic ecstasy during "Silver Trembling Hands."It seems that in addition to watching "The Night Porter" over and over again, Coyne has also been spending the wee hours listening to Miles Davis albums from the jazz master's most innovative and restlessly searching creative period."The electric period with Miles Davis, I think starting somewhere in the late '60s," Coyne said, "when he stopped being so based in what we think of as jazz and started in this other sort of more freak-out sort of time.

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