The Flaming Lips Play “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”

The Flaming Lips The Soft BulletinListen to this track by Oklahoman new-psych art rock trio The Flaming Lips. It’s “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”, the second track off of their 1999 magnum opus The Soft Bulletin. That album was not only a landmark album in their career, being their ninth. It also became a landmark album for the times as well, a sumptuous and artfully realized goodbye to the twentieth century.

This song is one of many that laid out a new template for the ‘Lips for which they continue to be associated today. On it, they decided to cut back on the guitars a bit, and focus more on varied textures. Part of this was an embrace of electronics, which was a natural progression for rock bands in the nineties. The walls between rock music and electronic music were very thin indeed then, and certainly musically permeable without the artists being self-conscious about it. Another was a more expansive approach to production (handled here in part by the band themselves) and to arrangements that included orchestral instruments, including harp, strings, and gong, the latter played (whacked?) by lead singer and head writer Wayne Coyne when they toured the record that summer. Seeing him wail on the gong live on stage was a musical highlight for me that year.

But, getting back to the idea that this album and this song seemed to be a marker of the late twentieth century, there are certainly threads to follow that tie it to pop music of several decades earlier. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this song, and about The Soft Bulletin in general is that it captures something that is quintessentially twentieth century; optimism and idealism when it comes to the future. Read more

Sorrow’s Children Pretty Things Compilation From Fruits De Mer Records

For fans of The Pretty Things, of classic vinyl, and of the musically innovative, and under-appreciated in the mainstream 1968 rock opera concept album S.F Sorrow, a new compilation record is on its way from Fruits De Mer Records – Sorrow’s Children, a title submitted by the Pretty Things themselves.

Here’s a sample of a track  which appears on the new record; Sidewalk Society, playing “She Says Good Morning”.

Original artwork by FRANK SUCHOMEL

A roster of indie talent perform all of the tracks from the original album in turn, along with a recent recording by the Pretties themselves; “The Loneliest Person”, recorded live in 2010 at London’s famous 100 club, and now exclusive to this release.

Also included in the package is an exclusive interview with founding members Phil May and Dick Taylor, talking about the making of their celebrated S.F Sorrow album. Appropriately, this new compilation record features classic gatefold packaging.

The release is something of a tribute to bands carrying on the tradition of psychedelia in the 21st Century, and the aesthetics of sumptuously presented rock music that the Pretty Things helped to create in the 1960s. Here’s the tracklisting, with the bands each taking on a classic track off of the original LP:

SF Sorrow is Born – The Luck of Eden Hall
Bracelets of Fingers – Sky Picnic
She Says Good Morning – Sidewalk Society
Private Sorrow – Hi-Fiction Science
Balloon Burning – Langor
Death – The Seventh Ring Of Saturn
Baron Saturday – Senrab Mendips
The Journey – Extra
I See You – Earthling Society
Well of Destiny – Jay Tausig
Trust – The Gathering Grey
Old Man Going – King Penguin
Loneliest Person – The Loons

For more information about the release, contact Keith (at)fruitsdemerrecords dot com. The record is out on limited release color-vinyl in Mid-April!


Strawberry Alarm Clock Perform “Incense and Peppermints”

incense_and_peppermints_albumListen to this track, a classic slice of psychedelic pop from the oddly named (but not for the time) pop group Strawberry Alarm Clock.  It’s their smash 1967 hit “Incense and Peppermints” and taken from the appropriately-named Incense and Peppermints album.

This song is not just a pop hit – it’s a sort of aural shorthand for an entire era, used in countless movie soundtracks to serve like a billboard that says ‘this film is set in the 1960s’.   And even looking closer, you get a pretty good cross-section of the styles and textures of the time – Farfisa organ, fuzz guitar, and interlocking harmonies that draw from the Beach Boys and the Association.  And in terms of style, this is psychedelia is intermingled with sunshine pop in such a way that makes it hard to resist.

Yet, the single originally began as being set to be a B-side, the lyrics written outside of the band by a publisher.  It was even sung by someone outside of the band – 16 year old Gary Munford.  After all, it wasn’t meant to be a flagship song for the band or anything – it was just a B-side!

Who knew that it would capture the imagination of a generation, and beyond?  You can even hear it in the music of decades well afterward; Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” uses the same chord progression as this tune, albeit at a different tempo.  The ‘Alarm Clock had a hit on its hands (no pun intended)!

After the initial success of the single, and after some line-up changes,  an album was hastily put together by the end of the year.  The band toured with Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Buffalo Springfield, and other top flight acts of the day, fashioning a sound that melds sunshine pop with trickier psychedelia akin to The Creation, although slowly jettisoning any efforts to appeal to the charts.

This was a move forward for the band, but like many acts that break out early with a smash hit, they were also weighted down by that hit.  By the early 70s, they were no more.  But, they had made their mark with this, one of the most infectious hits in pop music history.