The Flaming Lips: Five Essential ‘The Soft Bulletin’ Tracks

Written by Augustus Welby on September 13, 2019

When Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots came out in 2002, The Flaming Lips bore the glow of seasoned pros, masters of neo-psychedelia. It’s true that the Oklahoma band, led by Wayne Coyne, had been plying their trade since the mid-1980s, but their elevation to alt-rock prestige really only occurred in the wake of 1999’s The Soft Bulletin.

The Flaming Lips started out as a bunch of scraggly musicians with a thing for drugs, distortion and a skew-whiff viewpoint informed as much by Butthole Surfers as Syd Barrett. After signing with Warner Bros. in the midst of the alt-rock boom, they had a moderate hit with the 1993 single, ‘She Don’t Use Jelly.’

For those who discovered the band in later years – perhaps while headlining one of many Australian festivals over the last decade – seeing ‘Jelly’ on rage has probably been the cause of immense bafflement. Could this really be the same band responsible for philosophical pieces of baroque pop like ‘Do You Realize??’ and ‘Fight Test’?

‘Jelly’ was the only thing resembling a hit from the band’s first phase, and after Clouds Taste Metallic flopped, guitarist Ronald Jones said his goodbyes. While initially confronting, Jones’ exit encouraged the remaining band members to break away from their erstwhile penchant for noisy arrangements and lyrical fruit-loopery. 

The band’s next two LPs were more or less made in tandem. The first, Zaireeka, was never, on any planet, going to be a hit – each track’s constituent parts were spread across four separate discs that had to be played simultaneously. But its follow-up was The Soft Bulletin, which remains The Flaming Lips’ magnum opus. 

The Soft Bulletin recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Here is a closer look at the album’s five standout tracks.

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