11 Years Ago: the Flaming Lips’ ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’ Album Released
No one would argue with the following statement: "The Flaming Lips are a weird band." But one could’ve easily questioned their staying power prior to 1999, when they released the critically acclaimed ‘The Soft Bulletin.' The album brought new respect for a band that, up until that point, had been seen as another '90s alt-rock one-hit wonder (‘She Don’t Use Jelly’).
Continuing on the momentum of ‘Bulletin,’ the band returned in 2002 with what many see as its tour de force, ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,’ which turns 11 years old today. At its core, it’s a grand-scale concept album that has its roots in Japanimation and science fiction, following the story of a young girl (Yoshimi) as she tangles with the forces of evil (the pink robots). But unlike other concept albums with high-minded storylines -- Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece, ‘OK Computer,’ comes to mind -- ‘Yoshimi’ is a serious orchestral work with a great sense of humor. ‘OK Computer’ is pretty much all business throughout, and in that sense, ‘Yoshimi' is a more entertaining listen.
The album includes a little bit of everything: a wordless soundscape (‘Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon [Utopia Planitia]’), which earned the Lips a Grammy; a track exploring the idea of robots as sentient beings (‘One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21’); a rumination on love and hate (‘In the Morning of the Magicians’); and a cheesy, soaring love song (‘Do You Realize??’). It is one of those rare albums that the indie, rock, electro pop, and twee crowds can all agree on.
As serious as ‘Yoshimi’ sometimes gets, it’s a surprisingly playful and fun record -- random cheers and applause break out throughout, and after the story of Yoshimi is told in ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1,’ an instrumental follows, depicting what we can only gather is the actual battle, Yoshimi kicking some serious robot ass.
All of it’s positive qualities added up to a blockbuster: The album was certified gold in April 2006, and it's a staple of critics' "Best of the 2000s" lists.