The Flaming Lips
The Hypnotist 12” EP
2023 marks the twentieth anniversary of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and, to celebrate, Warner Brothers has embarked on an impressive campaign to re-examine the album (stay tuned for more on that later) but, without question, one of the most unusual parts of that endeavor is exhibited in the standalone release of The Hypnotist – a sort of unusually paced creation (one mammoth, 23-minute cut comprises the A-side, and three more curiosities fill out the B-) which doesn’t exactly play like a single OR an EP. Rather, it could be argued that The Hypnotist plays very much like an abbreviated full-length album in that it begins and ends, and has a very clear vision throughout.
As soon as the monster-sized demo version of “Psychedelic Hypnotist Daydream” opens (and is the sole occupant of) the A-side of The Hypnotist, listeners’ imaginations will be irretrievably captured by the Flaming Lips. After a minute-long overture delivered by what sounds like a full-sized, classical orchestra, the solid composition of the cut begins to fracture ever-so-slightly (read: little imperfections in the sound begin to imply how potentially fragile it is) and sees The Flaming Lips gently enter the mix (through little electronic touchings and a beat which sounds like it might have been programmed by Steven Drozd) and taking it in an almost hymnal direction. The cut is certainly offbeat, but it’s undeniably gorgeous – and then seems to clearly and audibly break like it was actually intended to be more than one track at the 5:50 mark. True, the song doesn’t obviously change in any dramatic way at that point, but the strings which only served to color the song before begin to play more assertive and driving role in its development. Listeners will be able to feel their sense of anticipation grow as the strings which were central to the song morph into keyboards which seek to frame the structure of the cut, dramatically.
At the fourteen-and-a-half-minute mark in the A-side’s running, Drozd and bassist Michael Ivins finally begin to assert a stronger role in the mix as a rhythm section and, at the 18:45 mark, “Psychedelic Hypnotist Daydream” (with Wayne Coyne finally inserting a more conventional “vocalist” position) finally resembles a complete composition – a song – more than just an ethereal sketch of a song, and listeners won’t be able to keep themselves from feeling thrilled; the patience that the first eighteen minutes of “Psychedelic Hypnotist Daydream” took are finally rewarded and offer a resolution as chords begin to adopt a rhythmic structure and strings re-enter the mix to knit the song into “more than just an overture.” When “Psychedelic Hypnotist Daydream” finally ends and the needle lifts, those who followed the whole cut will finally exhale sharply – because it finally feels safe to breathe. Even though the notion evades common sense, somehow, listeners will find themselves energetically flipping the record over in anticipation of what the A-side’s counterpart might contain.
…And, as soon as the B-side opens, the sense of reward that listeners of a particular mind will feel is both spectacular and immediate. The B-side opens with a cover of the Looney Tunes classic “Duck Dodgers Theme” and sees the Flaming Lips seeming to relate with their fans in an almost unexpected way; as the orchestral section which powers the song builds in intensity, it’s almost possible to hear the bandmembers grinning from ear to ear and biting back laughter as the song plays through. It really is that funny too, readers – the cut really needs to be heard to be believed.
After the levity supplied by “Duck Dodgers Theme” plays through, the Flaming Lips retain that lighthearted spirit on a great demo version of “I Know I’ve Got to Make That Dream the Reality” that the band would later perfect on 2006’s At War With The Mystics (it’s possible to hear similar colors to those which would eventually appear in songs like “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” here) before closing out the EP’s running with an instrumental version of “Do You Realize??” which is startlingly approachable. Here, as the song plays, listeners may actually feel a little cheated when they don’t hear Wayne Coyne deliver the song’s title lyric and get to sing along with it; in that, one can only assert that “Do You Realize” is truly a brand apart from the average artist-defining hit single; it has ascended to a level of popular appreciation and recognition that a very, very small number of other artists enjoy. Listening to that realization hit listeners in this context is both pretty tremendous and pretty remarkable – and then, when the song ends and stylus lifts thereafter, no small number of listeners who have run from front-to-back with this EP will curse the fact that this EP is so brief. It’s just too damned short. There’s no question that The Hypnotist is good, but those who buy it need to understand that its purchase leaves the gateway to buying the more expensive, 5LP, twentieth anniversary edition of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots wide open; those who begin here will want more, immediately. [Bill Adams]
The Flaming Lips – “Duck Dodgers Theme – [stream]
The Hypnotist 12” EP is out now. Buy it here on Rhino’s official website.