“Connection to the British icon’s pioneering “Berlin period” might explain the song’s name, but it’s still a pretty unusual title—let’s hope they don’t have any inside info on Bowie’s health…One might even consider it a callous song title, given that Bowie did undergo an emergency heart surgery in 2004 after a routine inspection discovered he had a blocked artery, which could have been fatal. Since then he’s mostly retired from music…”
–Joseph Brannigan Lynch, music-mix.ew.com
Over the past two days, The Flaming Lips new 12 inch EP – with Neon Indian – has been released (personally by Wayne Coyne) in a mere three stores… and it’s sold out in two of them. That’s what the internet is for…
Over the course of this weekend I’ll be posting full info on how you can get your hands on a copy of this colored vinyl specialty item next week (each record is a different hue, all designed by Wayne). Follow http://twitter.com/FutureHeartDay for the latest updates. Until then, let’s contemplate the opening track, “Is David Bowie Dying??” (and listen to the entire EP – in the videos below).
Even though the finished version of the song doesn’t actually seem to be about David Bowie (it’s really about a “pussy high”… right?), one must wonder what our not-quite-protaganist thinks of this song. Bowie is a known Lips’ fan (he singled them out as an example of a vital band amongst a sewer of “crap” – his words – on Carson Daly’s Last Call in August 2002). He could be flattered like Brian Eno was after MGMT released their super-producer ode last spring. But then again, MGMT didn’t bring death into their tune. Perhaps this is more along the lines of L.A. Style’s rave classic “James Brown Is Dead” – the title anyway, the song itself is, of course, completely different. That song was out for over 15 years before JB passed. A little, literal matter like that didn’t keep anyone from getting on their good foot though. As for The Flaming Lips’ latest creation with Neon Indian, well, it’s not exactly ants-in-your-pants-and-ya-need-to-dance music, but it does sound something like ants swimming through your brain. Is Bowie’s beating heart any reason to not enjoy that demented sensation? I didn’t think so…
Back in the day The Flaming Lips regularly covered Bowie’s coolest songs: Life on Mars, Five Years, Moonage Daydream, The Man Who Sold the World and Under Pressure. Several of the lyrical themes and sonic ideas Bowie played with have been further explored by the Lips, Michael Ivins cited The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust as one of his favorite albums, likewise Steven Drozd with Low. And if you listen carefully to Drozd’s piano playing throughout his 20 years with the Lips, notice the Rick Wakeman-influence bears Rick’s work with the Thin White Duke as much as it does Yes. In November 2000 Flaming Lips manager Scott Booker was even in contact with Bowie (or something like that) regarding a (subsequently aborted) Christmas duets album the Lips’ were planning. (What do you get when you cross Christmas with “Life on Mars”… Christmas on Mars??)….
Is this some sort of demented tribute? Maybe. But maybe not. Cynics will say it’s just an attention-getting title (and if it is, it worked – surely no other title would yeild articles like this one today from Entertainment Weekly). The Flaming Lips have toyed with references to fellow musicians since long before it could’ve gained them notice, though. It’s part of Wayne’s writing style and continues to be relatively consistently throughout their career (regardless of their fame index). Even the next song title on this very EP – “Alan’s Theremin” – is an example of that (to Alan Palomo aka Neon Indian). “Thank You Jack White” mentions Beck as well as the White Stripes (two-for-the-price-of-one… or three if you count Jesus: the first rock star). In fact, one could practically gauge their Lips’ fandom by their ability to identify these name-droppings. If you can spot “I know a girl, she reminds me of Cher” or ” So go tell Britney and go tell Gwen” you’re a fan, but only the fanatical get “it cuts and scrapes like Iggy Pop thrown in a hole”, “Kim’s got her watermelon gun” and “Ode to C.C.” The most striking reference though has to be “I was born the day they shot John Lennon’s brain” from 1990’s “Five Stop Mother Superior Rain”. There Wayne goes again on his iconic-rock star-dying trip, except the warped part of the lyric wasn’t Lennon’s death, but Wayne’s birth (he would have been 9 at the time of its release if he was born the day Lennon was shot).
In Wayne’s original acoustic demo he actually sang “David Bowie is dying” repeatedly – but that got drastically transformed and the lyric cut. All that’s left is that image of Bowie on his death bed in a hallucinogenic nightmare…
…that and the rest of the EP – listen here – Alan’s Theremin, You Don’t Respond and Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth Part 2:
Much more about this and a slew of other Flaming Lips (and Lips-related) new and upcoming releases will be posted soon. Follow twitter.com/FutureHeartDay for the latest and subscribe to youtube.com/psychexfutureheart.