Thursday, 29 July 2010

402 THE FLAMING LIPS, Merz, London Camden Electric Ballroom, Thursday 22 April 1999

First time back at The Electric Ballroom for some 14 years! Since then it's been closed down and re-opened, but is still easy to find, so after a good trundle down, Rachel and I met up with Tim and Claire in the venue at 8, and heard about their Elliott Smith gig the previous night, whilst ignoring the painful techno doodlings of Merz, a band who make "music" best described as the soundtrack to a migraine. Also indulged in some star-spotting, noting Miki Berenyi, ex of Lush, and also James Bradfield of the Maincs, obviously out to hear a real cutting-edge band! (miaow!)

Gathered near the front as the Lips soundchecked, and ran into Colleen Browne (my favourite tall red-haired Canadian bassist, and formerly of The Parachute Men, The Heart Throbs, Pale Saints and Warm Jets!). She gave me a flyer for her new band White Hotel and recommended I catch them. "We've got some history, you and me," she said; she's not wrong - see above!

Anyway, now onto The Flaming Lips. Now a trio, with bass, keyboards/ guitar, and a bloody huge "rank" gong being the "live" instruments, this promised to be a very unusual show. However, the new songs were no less than utterly astonishing, with layers of taped sound augmenting the live performance but never dominating it. In addition, projected images of fetuses, plane crashes and aerobic girls, amongst other crazy stuff, made for a unique visual spectacle. However, vocalist Wayne Coyne was the main visual focus throughout, playing the gong with gusto and producing rubber glove puppets of chameleons, geckos and nuns (!).

Meanwhile the ears were doing damn fine too! They've taken the best elements from their "Boom Box Experiment" idea, and have developed their wired and slightly-delic sound into lush sonic landscapes, with few contemporary comparisons other than the excellent and equally reinvented Mercury Rev. Of the old numbers on offer, only the sublime singalong "Jelly" stood comparison with some unearthly sounding new numbers. One bemused punter shouted, "you used to be so good but then it all went strange," to which Wayne Coyne agreed. However, for "strange", read, "other worldly and beautiful". As one of their numbers stated, "their potential has arrived". And how! No less than awesome. They're playing together with The Rev in a couple of weeks. I'm already counting the seconds until then!

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