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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Race for the Prize"

The Flaming Lips - "Race for the Prize" (1999)

The ninth studio album by The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin is often considered the beginning of their current sound.

The song has two distinct sections and goes back and forth between them. During the mostly instrumental portion you can hear some backing vocal chants, but most of the sound is analogue and digital instruments. You can hear harp, piano, and xylophone, as well as a electric string section and other synthesizer sounds. The drums are so much louder during this section, and the bass drum is not muffled, giving us a not often heard ringing bass drum sound that shakes at your core. When the more traditional alt-rock section is heard, both voices are Wayne Coyne, but one is more processed than the other. He is effectively singing as both of the scientists the song is about. The second voice is 'further away' and yet heard at the same volume. During this section you can hear a timpani being played along with the traditional drum set.

Lyrically the song is really odd. Not really odd for the Flaming Lips, but really odd in general. Their is a chorus, verses, and the mostly instrumental section that acts as a bridge; but the lyrics are not like other bands. It's not a love song, or a song about a preexisting character, or a friend of the band, or even a folk hero. Coyne and the band are telling a story of something that never happened. Like "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots part 1" from their similarly named next album we are asked to listen and care about heroes who are willing to risk their lives for us, yet never existed. It's an odd genre The Flaming Lips have cooked up, but it works for them.

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