The Flaming Lips
Like The Beatles—who The Flaming Lips revere, if not emulate—the Lips’ career consists of four distinct phases. First came the Oklahoma band’s LSD-drenched psychedelic years, which lasted from 1986 through 1990. Phase two (1992-1997) found them sign to Warner Bros. and achieve radio success with “She Don’t Use Jelly.” In their third phase (1999-2009), they proved themselves more than just a one-hit wonder and barnstormed the mainstream via the universally beloved The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. In phase four (2009-present), the Lips embraced their mainstream appeal by collaborating with Miley Cyrus, Kacey Musgraves, and Chris Martin and venturing even further into parts unknown.
It can be argued that the Lips’ greatest musical achievements came during that third phase (though it’s too premature a debate, as they’re still going strong and—if they get their wish—could be the first band to perform in outer space). There was a pivotal moment in this era when the Lips captured lightning in a bottle, attracted fresh legions of fans, and cemented their sheer brilliance. That artistic and commercial breakthrough was 2002’s Yoshimi. One of the first great records of the century, it documented the Lips reaching a level of transcendence usually occupied by mystics. A spiritual plane where one embraces both life and death with equal amounts of love, joy, and tears. It’s a place The Beatles visited, too.
Proving the vitality of Yoshimi, the Lips’ follow-up came after the longest break between full-lengths in their now-40-year career. However, shortly after Yoshimi, the band did slip out an EP named after its first song and third single: “Fight Test.” Much more than just a release intended to capitalize on their newfound success, Fight Test also featured live versions of songs by Radiohead, Beck, and Kylie Minogue, two original compositions (one a public thank-you letter to Jack White), and a nine-minute remix of the Yoshimi single “Do You Realize??” While EPs are often excluded from discussions about great albums, Fight Test, like The Flaming Lips themselves, are an exceptional case. At almost 33 minutes in length, Fight Test is practically an LP. Plus, it charted on the Billboard 200 and it earned the Lips a GRAMMY nomination.
Stunningly, Warner Bros. didn’t issue Fight Test on vinyl until now, 20 years after its initial release. While it doesn’t contain any new material—the record is too perfect for that—the ruby red disc is nonetheless as valuable as a golden ticket inside a packaged candy bar (and if Wayne Coyne isn’t the Willy Wonka of rock and roll, who is?). The Fight Test vinyl reissue is not only a look back at a pinnacle in the career of the Lips, but a testament to their immortality. They’re a band that has never stopped burning bright and has never faded away. They’re the Everlasting Gobstopper of pop music. They’re The Flaming Lips, now and forever.