Jim Lancaster: Corporate drone | writer at & co-founder of Heavy Hearted Bastards
The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
Why is it one of your favorites?
This album represents a rare combination of innovative artistic expression by a band I've loved for years, thematic elements that have continued to resonate with me in new and meaningful ways as I age, and it forever being time-stamped to one of the most significant moments of my life: marrying my wife. I was already a fan of the band in the mid-90s off of the strength of their album Clouds Taste Metallic, but it was their release of Zaireeka in 1997 that led to my enamoration with them. Consisting of four separate records or CDs that all needed to be played simultaneously to recreate endlessly unique renditions of the songs, Zaireeka represented the creative kind of batshit crazy I wanted to see in artists. When The Soft Bulletin released in the summer of 1999, it was readily apparent that the Lips had morphed the batshit crazy into something transcendent: a lush, innovative album that was achingly beautiful and carried emotional weight.
Has your relationship with the record changed since you first heard it, if so how?
As I age, different thematic elements resonate. As a young man looking forward to marriage I was drawn to the soaring optimism (albeit tinged with the specter of hard-eyed reality; a recurring Lips' trait) of the opening tracks "Race for the Prize" and "Spoonful Weighs a Ton" (check out 1:10 on the latter with the lyrics "being drunk on their plan, they lifted up the sun" and then the sonic boom of the bass drum as it kicks in. "Waitin' for a Superman" speaks to the weight I sometimes feel as a man trying to be the husband and father my mind tells me I'm failing to be as I struggle with mental illness. "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" lulls you into being peacefully resigned about your eventual demise with a dusk chorus of nighttime insects, and "The Gash" serves as the album's "banger" while calling you on your shit: "Is that gash in your leg really why you have stopped? / 'Cause I've noticed all the others, though they're gashed, are still goin'."
What is something about the record people might not know, or that you’d like to point out?
The album cover art consists of a modified photo Neal Cassady taken during an acid trip with the Merry Pranksters in 1966.
The Soft Bulletin is the band at the peak of their creative powers. finding the perfect expression of their post-guitar-driven sound in an introspective album that contemplates our mortality.