Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.


The Flaming Lips - Live.



lip.jpgIt ends with White Christmas, sung through a megaphone. It sounds a hundred years away, from the loneliest place on earth. It looks like a Muppet Velvet Underground singing the hits of Bing Crosby splattered with blood and punching the air while clutching a flapping mechanical bird. And that cheesy seasonal standard has never sounded quite so beautifully strange.

The Flaming Lips live show is all confetti, mirrorballs and rabbit suits. The stage is a collage of corny moments and phoney props. The band lined up in a flat hierarchy flanked by troups of dancing animal suited. A screen behind that shows mini-films and close ups of front man Wayne Coyne from a mike mounted camera as he waggles puppets, cracks blood pellets and puts himself through the mangle of entertainment. Giant sized coloured balloons bounce off the audience and around the Apollo with slo-mo physics.

None of this would look out of place on Top of the Pops circa 1979, but there's an intensity that transforms it, like John Donne backed by Legs & Co. Dry ice engulfs the stage till you can't see anything but a big fog, cut through by torch beams waved like kids in a forest. The furry animals emote like a mascot school reunion. Their show transforms hollow stage gestures - balloons pregnant with meaning and Mexican waves profound.

Like the Teletubbies scripted by Becket and directed by Sergio Leone its an off kilter cuteness, peaking with Wayne singing Happy Birthday to people in the audience (Joe, Katie, Vicki, Tim, Katherine and Christina tonight). Its like Dada doing Disney Character breakfast birthdays. And perhaps they were never meant to be so different. After all, Walt hired Dali to make "Destino" : "the first motion picture of the Never Seen Before" (shelved in 1947, post huminously completed 2003, DVD release 2004).

Most art is made by excluding everything else in the hope that such severe editing will bestow some kind of concentrated power. The Lips music is made in the opposite way: out of piles of other stuff. Its a fermenting hooch of American Folk music - country schmaltz, hip hop beats, Detroit techno squelches, blues guitars. acid rock amongst others that give off a hazy fume, distorting sound like a aural mirage. An interstellar folk music.

The Lips make songs that sound like they have fallen apart and have been carefully reconstructed - so that they are also lumps of sound stuck to each other. Their 1997 album Zaireeka explored this idea of music as sound assemblage. Released as four CDs designed to be heard simultaneously by lining up 4 CD players and sprinting around the room pressing play. The bands recordings were an approximation of what the listener would hear. The amateurish/provisional not-quite-resolvedness is part of their unique sound. It amplifies emotion. Coynes cracked vocals are like looking at a faint star from the corner of your eye. You can hear it in the shows big finale, 'Do You Realise': like the Six Million Dollar Man in bionic mode, slowing down makes it feel faster.

The Lips make squewed pop music. Their view is slanted in a way which reclaims kitsch and pop from those who dismiss it as a dead end. The Lips show that a magic realist pop can be deep, tragic and optimistic. A soundtrack to inexpressible human experiences: the delight of sunbeams, the primordial wonder of existence, the mystery of death. It is an aesthetic at once emotionally raw and warmly cuddly - brutalism draped in fairy lights. An avant guarde that wants us to love each other.

This is what pop architecture could have become if Robert Venturi had blown his Yale Prof $$$'s on heroin and acid in a Las Vegas motel - a psychedelic difficult whole. Or if Madelon Vriesendorp was the architectural guru her ex-husband became. Her Delirious New York pictures ( e.g.: Empire State and Chrysler buildings sprawled post-coitally with a limp Goodyear blimp condom discarded on a Manhattan grid rug) share an atmosphere with Wayne Coynes own paintings - a spooky kind of naive allegorical fantasy.

The Americana which clutters the Venturis home (drive-in McDonalds signs in the hall, papier mache orange cactus, giant sized ketchup bottle ...) are just the kind of thing that the Lips sing about on Fibre Optic Jesus - a backstage gift from Jack White. The song is a tribute to the mystery and poetry of novelty plastic products. A secular tribute to the metaphysical properties of pound store artifice. That the whole universe is an illusion. That beauty can (and should) be found anywhere in it - especially things that somebody has tried so hard to make beautiful.

Wayne's end of show each-day-at-a-time self-help-esque soliloquy is about the individuals responsibility to make themselves happy. And I think that is why all these lovely things are arranged haphazardly over the stage. They prompt our own efforts to be happy.

It is a victory of poetry over taste. Of not wanting to be cool but trying to be human. It makes taste makers like Radiohead, Conran, or Adjaye look like petty minded parochialists. The best way to overcome the oppression of taste is to love more. The Flaming Lips pluralistically incorporate the incompatible by refusing to believe in opposites. By making lateral connections between distant things they generate a magnetic-like force that holds it all together and vibrates with possibility.

First Published in Icon



Posted by anothersam at May 16, 2004 9:56 PM.

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Contents:

More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff

On Christmas Trees, Folk Forests and Staples Office Supplies

Hampton Courts Shrouded Sculptures

Named Fabric: 20 Sponsored Pieces of Architecture at the New Museum

Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

James Bond Lives Next Door: Suburban Imagery as Industry

The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Replica Bombs

The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

Sint Lucas in BD

Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

'Its beauty will know no season'

2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

Nelsons Cavern

Foam Gargoyle

New Tory Logo: A Hazy Shade of Politics

Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

Everything Flows: ideological cartography

How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

LegoLand London Cluster

In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

Metallic Jet Powered Cloud

"When we got married I had no idea he would do something like this, he just said he was going to do some decorating."

The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon

Trace

What happens when you cross a pen with a car?

Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

Holiday Snap II : Giant Glowing French Balls

Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

Pecha Kucha London

Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

First Cut - Case Closed

The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

White Cubed Blues

Poundbury, unexpectedly, in the rain

The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica

Swingball

Untitled (Plastic Sack and Timber)

Berlin 1945 - The Obscene Picturesque

Pizza Planet

Goal Sculptures

Interview: Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane

Previewing Cedric Price

The Mardas Touch

Building a Lionel Richie Head

Ornament is Grime 2

An Incredible Smell of Roasting Coffee

Flatpack Frenzy at New IKEA

Langlands & Bell - The House of Osama Bin Laden

Labour is kind of working

Happy Death Men

Build to Let

Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

Niagara Falls

Ornament is Grime

FA(ke) Cup

Q&A: Wouter Vanstiphout

X-treme urinals

Unigate Cowscape

Spray-on Snow

From the Baffler ...

One in a Taxi

The Queen Machine

The Knork

Venturi, Scott Brown and my love that dare not speak its name.

Polictical Placards

The Ketchup Conumdrum

Douglas Coupland: Design and Fiction

It's a Small World

Images de Parfums

Soft Carcass

Christopher Dresser at the V&A

Blow up Pub

Municipal Mummification

The Matt and Ron Show

Semi - detached

Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

Favorite Things

Fugitives and Refugees' - Chuck Palahniuk

The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

Just What is it That Makes Yesterdays Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

The Flaming Lips - Live.

Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension

Other:

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