“You start to see this cliche and it’s actually your life. We are a not very successful weirdo-rock group and we are just like every other group. We are going to get dropped from our record label. We have one hit single, and our main musician, our genius musician is also a heroin addict. And you can just look ahead and be like, ‘How do you think this is going to work out?’
– Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips
Thus begins the recently released Pitchfork.tv documentary on Flaming Lips career-transforming album, The Soft Bulletin, which unintentionally coincides with The Flaming Lips playing the full ep live at the NoisePop Festival.
The 1999 release has long been one of my personal favorites. I’ve always known that it was a loose concept album based on personal battles, but until I saw the documentary, I was never quite sure how to interpret the specifics of the inventive album.
The documentary explains that the album is about despair. It’s about dealing with personal issues like death, addiction, cancer, car crashes, and other horrific things that occur in life, even recluse spider bites. I really believe that while Coyne wrote album about despair, the music often lifts you beyond it.
In the documentary, Coyne notes how the lyrics have personal meaning to him, but also have almost become anthems to listeners and fans.
“People who have family members die will come to me almost ever show and they talk about ‘[Waitin’ for A]Superman’, they talk about ‘Spoonful Weighs A Ton’ and how it’s like ‘I know what you are talking about. But we can’t say specifically what it is, so we use music to talk about it.”
On another, less-personal level, The Soft Bulletin also marked change for the band, who lost a member and knew that to continue to exist they had to do something aesthetically and creatively different and back away from their previous loud, guitar driven, grungy-sound. The result of the effort is a truly beautiful album that sounds almost as new in today’s music environment as it did upon it’s release 13 years ago.