The Flaming Lips have a lot of albums. From the noisy post-punk of 1986’s Hear It Is and neo-psychedelic alt-rock of 1990’s In a Priest Driven Ambulance, to their 1993 MTV hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” and the purely conceptual experiment that is 1997’s Zaireeka.….. all the way to their current form as fun-loving, musically-unpredictable, glitter-blasting freaks.
Right in the middle there, the band had their masterstroke.
Released 20 years ago, The Soft Bulletin is the album where everything came together for the Flaming Lips. The songwriting became more thoughtful and profound, weighing mortality and our place in the universe. Sonically, its wild but delicately refined experimentation led some to call it the “Pet Sounds of the ’90s.” Songs like “Race for the Prize,” “Waitin’ for a Superman,” “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton,” “The Spiderbite Song” and “What Is the Light?” remain some of the band’s most beloved material.
The Soft Bulletin, along with its follow-up, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, helped open up the indie rock revolution of the 2000s and distinguish the Flaming Lips as the respected weirdos they are.
Those albums, and their lovable drive to keep throwing things against the wall to see what happens, has given the band a free pass to do whatever the hell they want.
Ryan is a writer, editor and vinyl collector currently based in Los Angeles. He started Mini Music Critic in 2017.