Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Warner Brothers)
Reviewed by Erick Mertz
The praise heaped upon the Flaming Lips last effort, The Soft Bulletin, heralded it as everything from a momentary masterpiece to a burgeoning classic. Writers from the underground to the mainstream presses reached deep into their collective thesauruses for every scrap of hyperbole that would aptly describe that modern rarity: the conquering rock album.
So where does that place current release Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots?
The Oklahoma City born Flaming Lips have forever been experimenting with sounds and production techniques to capture their quirky artistic vision. Prior albums such as Transmissions from the Satellite Heart and Clouds Taste Metallic displayed shimmering moments and promise but ultimately lacked cohesion. A lyrical theme testing the philosophies of love and the accelerating universe, joined with a rock driven studio sound on The Soft Bulletin brought delight to critics and fans alike; it also brought the band another step closer to achieving that vision.
The songs on Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots pick up where its predecessor left off. The album loosely tells the tale of a karate black belt who works in the city during the day and at night trains for battle against a legion of evil doing robots. Sound absurd? Maybe, but this cartoon premise is wrapped in layers of the "bigger" questions. The opening track "Fight Test" is a lovely pop jangle about the mystery of attaining manhood. "Ego Tripping At the Gates of Hell" questions linear time and the essence of a single moment. Ranging between a big rock thump and delicate electronic spaciness Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots never once sounds redundant. Songs like "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Plantia)" and "All We Have Is Now" require intent second and third listens, if only to capture all the layers present. Like a well-crafted symphony, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots is impossible to categorically define.
Pulling all of these seemingly divergent elements together requires a careful hand, and that is more than present with the Flaming Lips and their producer/contributor Dave Fridmann. Eschewing the temptation to make a repeat of The Soft Bulletin, the band took it a daring step forward and created a ready companion. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots may lack the drive of a true single, such as previous offerings like "She Don't use Jelly" or "Waitin' for a Superman," but it really doesn't need it. No individual track is representative of the album as a whole, and that speaks volumes about what makes it such a rewarding listen.
Dare I dip into my own thesaurus and call it a triumph?
© 2002 - Erick Mertz