The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Making the good things last
The Soft Bulletin would be a hard act for any band to follow, yet with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the Flaming Lips finally would break the cycle of each great album and commercial breakthrough being followed by a relative dud with a disc that matched or exceeded the accomplishments of its predecessor. Inspired by Madonna's 2000 album Music and Björk's 2001 effort Vespertine, as well as more underground artists such as the Chemical Brothers and the Aphex Twin, the band decided to embrace more electronic sounds and computer technology. Songs such as the two-part title track and "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" can be heard as parts of a concept album about preserving humanity in the face of encroaching technology — though Wayne, who doesn't own a computer and never has used e-mail, said he intended the exact opposite, championing machines that are more "human" than people. (The idea sprang from watching a TV documentary about robotic dogs providing solace for aged shut-ins.) Either way, the standout among a collection of uniformly excellent tunes turned out to be the band's next big hit: "Do You Realize??," in which Wayne asks a disturbing question ("Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?") seemingly at odds with a beautiful melody resonant of John Lennon's "Imagine," until the songwriter resolves the query with the neatest summation he's produced of his distinctive philosophy: "Instead of saying all of your goodbyes/ Let them know you realize that life goes fast/ It's hard to make the good things last." In other words: Carpe diem.