Wednesday, August 10, 2011
The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian -The Flaming Lips with Neon Indian
1. Is David Bowie Dying
2. Alan's Theremin
3. You Don't Respond
4. Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth Part 2
Outside of geographic proximity (Norman, Okla., and Denton, Texas, are only 150 miles apart), psychedelia is the only obvious link between the Flaming Lips and Alan Palomo's project Neon Indian. The Lips often veer to the darker side of psych, especially recently (see their 2009 dread-filled opus Embryonic), while Palomo deals in a day-glo take on 1980's pop. So when Wayne Coyne revealed that they were banging out a fast collaboration-- as he put it, "that shit should be ready to go pretty quickly"-- the first question that came to mind was whether the result would lean more toward sun or shadows.
That's settled immediately by the opener on this four-track, 22-minute EP, the ominously titled "Is David Bowie Dying?" It's not completely clear what the lyrics have to do with Bowie's potential demise, but the music feels like an elegy, a kind of spaced-out funeral march. With its slow, crunchy beat, cutting sonic debris, and Coyne's weary intonations, it would fit well among Embryonic's doomy mantras. "Take your legs and run/ To the death rays of the sun," he sings with resignation, followed by a stoic chant of "goodbye, goodbye." It's pretty morose, but hypnotic and fully-realized-- impressively so considering how quickly it was made.
The rest of the record shares those dark qualities-- much of it is stark, cavernous, and full of murky low end. But the other three tracks are less polished, more loose and experimental. Which is not to suggest they're somehow unfinished. Their sounds are more suited to an amorphous form, making it tough to tell exactly what Palomo contributed. Even on "Alan's Theremin"-- an eight-minute soundscape that ranks with the weirdest stuff by either act-- there's no telling what came from that instrument (or even if he actually used one). But Palomo's anonymity reflects an internal coherence. This isn't a case of musicians who just met randomly throwing sounds at each other. As unpredictable as the music can be, very little comes off as gratuitous or out of place.
Still, if you're looking for something as song-like as "Is David Bowie Dying?", stick around for the closer. As with the first cut, its title-- "Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth Part 2"-- makes a specific reference, in this case to a Minutemen song. But again, how the music relates to that title isn't overt. The track sounds more like a krautrock jam, with a muffled bass groove that could've been ripped from a Can outtake. In keeping with the record's vibe, it blows apart near the end, with individual sounds dying off into the ether. It's a dark way to end, but it suggests open space rather than closed perfection. Turns out this collaboration is as much about implication as explication-- as much about what these artists could do as what they actually did...www.pitchfork.com