Album Notes - The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Album Notes - The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

July 21, 2022

We take the occasional stroll down memory lane, often for albums released before I was born. Today we're only going back 20 years, yet this one in particular makes me feel old.

In 2002, the Flaming Lips were 16 years into their recording career and still best known as the "She Don't Use Jelly" group. (Which was also one of the first CDs I owned.) While their 1999 release The Soft Bulletin earned them heaps of critical praise, it didn't exactly thrust them into the mainstream. That would have to wait three years. On July 16, 2002, the band dropped Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, an epic sorta kinda concept album about a blackbelt in karate who, well, battles pink robots, and the Flaming Lips' fortunes seemed to turn overnight.

If one only knew the band from "Jelly," Yoshimi represented an entirely different artistic entity. In some ways it was, as the Flaming Lips had undergone numerous personnel changes. But the musical evolution throughout the 90s was apparent, particularly on the spectacular The Soft Bulletin that served as a precursor for the album that would bring Wayne Coyne and co. to wider audiences. It could be argued that Yoshimi is The Soft Bulletin on steroids, everything about it bigger and bolder. And most of it is brilliant, especially sonically (check out the 5.1 surround sound version). At times depressing, others uplifting, Yoshimi left an impact on audiences that was not expected by most anyone and became a staple two decades ago among hippy-leaning college kids like me. The Lips have since become known for their celebratory concert quirks and famous friends. They still put out decent music too, but I am not holding out hope that any future output will match Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. That's a fight most bands would lose.