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Thursday, November 23, 2017 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
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+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
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+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
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+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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Flaming Lips
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Fight Test EP
Warner Bros.
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In America, the single is all but dead; long live the single in its new incarnation, the extended-play record, or EP. Two big factors — record labels' incessant quest for profits, and the CD's ability to hold nearly twice as much music as a long-playing vinyl album — have helped kill the low-priced single for artists on major labels. So instead, we get the occasional EP featuring a song or two from a band's latest album, supplemented by a few b-sides and/or cover songs, along with the near-ubiquitous "bonus enhanced multimedia content." Priced higher than singles used to be priced, but lower than CD albums, today's EPs usually offer music that somehow wasn't good enough to appear on the albums they trail, but is still thought to be worthwhile.

Since signing with Warner a decade ago, the Flaming Lips had routinely released a single or two off of each album, offering fans a few b-sides and alternate takes (one of those singles, "She Don't Use Jelly," from 1993's Transmissions From the Satellite's Heart, was a minor hit). Despite a lack of airplay on commercial radio, the band has reached its current peak in popularity through a combination of positive press, relentless touring and savvy marketing. They've become noticed through word of mouth rather than broadcast media saturation, though the occasional television commercial has added some extra "oomph" to their efforts.

So 2003 is here, the Lips are touring behind a year-old album, and it seems a good time to put something out, right? "Fight Test" gathers seven songs, some previously available elsewhere, from the last year, and bundles them with the PC-playable video for the title track and the trailer for the band's forthcoming "Christmas on Mars" movie.

So you're probably wondering whether this new release is worth your money. My answer would be a guarded yes, assuming you're already a Flaming Lips fan. None of the six non-Yoshimi... tracks being offered up approach that album's best moments; instead, this EP offers a survey of the band's myriad influences (if not some outright homages) and a versatility that hasn't been displayed on their last few albums.

The EP has a rather straightforward flow, starting with the title track (which also opens Yoshimi...), then a trio of covers, followed by a Yoshimi... remix, and two new Lips songs. "Fight Test" sports the most obvious hook and some of the best guitar work on the computer-heavy album it was pulled from, but you already know that. Next comes a shocking revelation, as the band strips Kylie Minogue's infectious but lightweight hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head" down to its core, taking away the poppy trappings to expose the song's sad, obsessive elements. Melancholy strings, achingly sad piano, and dramatic flamenco-style guitar strums transform the song, dispelling Minogue's taunting tone and infusing it with the sound of sheer desperation. In covering songs, artists are often simply acknowledging their tastes or trying to appropriate earlier successes, but reinventions like this remind me of the hidden depths a seemingly simple song can hold when placed in the proper hands.

Unfortunately, the covers found here of Beck's "Golden Age" and Radiohead's "Knives Out" are much less interesting, except as a reminder that Wayne Coyne's warbly voice is better suited to those songs he writes for himself. Both stick rather closely to the original artists' arrangements and seem to serve mainly as tributes. These are followed by a pleasant diversion, a nine-minute remix of "Do You Realize?" that carries the parenthetical subtitle "Scott Hardkiss Floating in Space Version." And it does float nicely, with the original's guitar strum and drum beats replaced by a house-style beatbox, preserving the string and bell sounds while fleshing them out with additional electronic flourishes. "The Strange Design of Conscience" continues this foray into the dance-pop realm, with the downbeat, accusatory lyrics, simplistic synthesizer parts, and tentative guitar picks and strums strongly echoing New Order(!) at every turn.

And last comes the big, happy, country-tinged closer, "Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)," a rambling narrative about how the White Stripes front man bestowed the item under discussion upon Wayne Coyne, and the beneficial effects it had upon him and his entire neighborhood. It's a wonderfully inconsequential goof that reminds us that, for all the earnestness of their recent albums, the Flaming Lips still possess the perverse sense of humor that marked a fair bit of their earlier recordings.

On balance, the Fight Test EP is a mixed bag of tricks and treats. If you approach it hoping for a mini-album equal to The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi.... you're likely to come away disappointed. But as a collection of curios for hardcore Lips fans, it has some very satisfying moments.


by Steve Gozdecki




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