This album is tracks recorded by The Flaming Lips’ original line-up, which featured Wayne Coyne’s brother Mark on vocals. It includes the band’s first and second cassette demos and a self-released EP, and it’s surprisingly decent. The added fun for fans of a certain age is guessing the English bands the Lips were into when any song was written.
The opening notes are recognisably Lips, something of a relief, though it’s a red herring, as after that it’s an album for fans of garage rock. The guitars, energy and solid drumming are as you would expect of the Lips. The vocals on the first sections, courtesy of Mark, are distorted and not melodic, though not abrasive.
The riffs are those that anyone who has played in a band will recognise — they’re the basic riffs and song structures that enthusiastic amateurs come up with, in this case recorded reasonably professionally.
Are there the sounds of stardom in there? Probably not and hindsight is great, though it’s above average DIY/garage rock, and the musicianship is there.
Early tracks are stoner —they’ve covered Sabbath song War Pigs live — heavy on guitars with lots of distortion. By track seven the sound is tighter and punkier; the songs are shorter, the playing sharper and the vocals less distorted. There’s a decent original, Killer On The Radio, and some better ideas, too. The giveaway tune is the Batman theme — guess who’d discovered The Jam — and the sound is similar to early Weller. There’s also a cover of The Who’s Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. Closer Handsome Johnny is a little forgettable. The Flaming Lips Theme Song was possibly inspired by Batman; if the caped crusader can have one, why not the Lips?
They veer around punk territory quite a lot. More than one track is like The Damned, just better (not hard, let’s face it), though the end of the Heart It Is demos go more psychedelic and experimental, with some basic glimpses of the Lips we know and love. Underground Pharmacist is a bit early Siouxsie, Real Fast Words more SLF. On the final demos, Groove Room is more Gang of Four, for the acerbic guitar, while the clattery Trains, Brains and Rain reminded us of The Lurkers.
Lips fans expecting the Yeah Yeah Yeah song will be disappointed but it’s an appealing garage rock album that stands a decent compilation with or without the famous thing that was to follow.