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YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS
by The Flaming Lips
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YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS
by The Flaming Lips
Release Date: July 16, 2002
The Impact of Death on the Sunrise
In the spring of 2000 we were on tour (somewhere on the west coast U.S. of A.) when we began to receive some strange e-mails concerning a friend of ours (a Japanese woman who worked for a magazine and ran a record store in Osaka). The e-mails were poorly translated to English from Japanese - so the message, unfortunately, was not easily understood. But as the days went by we were able to, little by little, decipher the horrible news being transmitted - our friend (the Japanese girl) had become ill - a heart ailment of some kind - and suddenly and sadly had died. Though she (our friend) had spoke and wrote English very well, her sisters who were sending the e-mails, did not - so the seriousness of the situation was hard to confirm. You see, we had seen this girl not too long before this and - although we did not know her well - she spent several days with us traveling around Japan, and seemed fine. Whatever condition we perceived her to be in then and there, she was... now - dead... and; like I said earlier, we were on tour, traveling from city to city with a very busy schedule. So, while we were receiving this news - that she had died - we were skeptically unsure - the translation being so odd. It left us a little room to still be optimistic that perhaps this was not the final word. As weeks passed and spring became summer, the realization of her death slowly bloomed - it was very strange - never at once did it overwhelm me, it did not come like some giant black spear piercing my chest, as other deaths had done - it came a drip at a time - never a rush of the unthinkable - it came as a gentle devastation...
As the summer rolled on we were set to do a remix of "Race For The Prize" for, I believe, an UK only release. We needed a B-side and, never one to pass up an opportunity, I thought I would write up a quick new song and without giving it much thought sat down and began to sing into the tape recorder (I don't know why but it seems the more profoundly internal something is, the more intensely one wants to scream out loud about it). What came out of me was this sympathetic plea to those sisters that I could not, with any certainty, communicate my condolences - it went almost exactly as it's heard now - "It's Summertime and I can understand if you still feel sad - It's Summertime and though it's hard to see it's true possibilities" - and what I meant was this - the aims and appreciations of life are the best defense against death and the summertime when there is such an explosion of life - everything bursting ripe - this distraction - this noticing of life erupting all around could give them comfort. I know it did for me. So, I exclaimed "Look outside - I know that you'll recognize it's summertime!!" - not to be some cosmic hippie solution - there is no answer - just a change... but better to express sorrow and experience sadness than to let inner emotions inflate to the point of despair - despair only leads to more death. For it's bad enough that something wonderful in your life has left you - but to fall into despair - despair does not allow you to even enjoy what is still living...
So, as the summer came to an end, we were never satisfied with the remix and the "Race For The Prize" single was never issued, but unbeknown to us at the time, this sad song about the impact of death and the victory and celebration of sunshine was the beginning of our post "Soft Bulletin" sessions. For the next couple of years we would be in and out of the studio (primarily Dave Fridmann's) piecing together three different and unrelated ambitions.
The first of these presented itself when our friend and filmmaker Bradley Beesley was finishing up his documentary, "Okie Noodling," about a clan of weirdo fisherman in the backwoods of Oklahoma. "The Southern Oklahoma Cosmic Trigger Contest" (not for sale yet) was the result and it consisted of music I call, "Epic Country and Western," utilizing mainly acoustic sounds such as harmonica, banjo, upright bass, strings and occasional hiccups. The unplugged nature of these sessions was a bizarre contrast to the tracks we were beginning to assemble with Dave Fridmann (which were, at first, completely computer generated and electronic for "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" and the "Christmas On Mars" musical score) not only contrasting in technical terms but also in tone. The "Okie Noodling" batch had a decidedly un-moralizing bent (unlike most C&W derived from Gospel and Folk), while the "Pink Robots" batch were of an optimistic and philosophical spirit - and (if it can be pronounced to be so as a thrichotomy of priorities) - the "Christmas On Mars" score being melancholy and sometimes crushingly depressing dirges with religious textures and spacey sound effects.
Our earlier experience of working on Zaireeka (an experimental 4-disc set) while working on the "Soft Bulletin" illuminated the benefits of changing focus from one sound dimension to another and though we did not intend to be juggling all three at once - it never became an un-manageable workload and actually proved to be a wonderful change of atmosphere and process.
In the past, we had never approached any collection of songs with an overall intention of mood, as we were doing here - our curiosity of sounds and production had usually shaped our identity more than any specific, pre-ordained idea. With these three projects happening simultaneously it would be very easy to drift from one idea to another carrying influences from the previous to the next - and we didn't want this - we wanted each to be distinct and with its own logic and character and impression. So, without having too rigid a parameter we began throwing sonic and melody creations into different piles - one for the "Fish Movie," one for the "Christmas Movie" and one for what ended up being "Pink Robots" (and it's funny, but some kind of biological-psychological reaction mechanism kicks in and deduces that - any emersion in one sensation - for too long at a time - heightens the desire for the opposite - kind of like how eating a bag of potato chips detonates the panic response for a candy bar). And so it was with a relaxed urgency that we (at first) easily shifted from acoustic stuff to computer electronic stuff and from spacey Christmas stuff to beat-heavy experimental rock stuff. But, (and I know this begins to sound absurd) if you did actually do an experiment where you had a bag of potato chips and a candy bar and you repeatedly grabbed one and then the other - and you did this for say - half a million times over the period of a couple of years - you would eventually end up with some version of candy coated potato chips... and so while I believe the "Okie Noodling" tracks sound Real-McCoy hillbilly and the "Christmas On Mars" tracks (so far) sound very cosmic and religious - the "Pink Robots" tracks (because it was the most reworked, the most fucked with, and essentially the most "touched" of the three) have absorbed the influence of them more than they... it... And has emerged as something that, if looked at on paper - like you're doing now - could seem impossible or wrong - perhaps like some genetically altered plant, it's alive and thriving, but disturbingly unnatural...
But, with any luck, such will be music's triumph over the psyche that this concoction of confusing companions with it's story-telling acid rock (I guess??) and it's theme of sunshine funerals will render its listeners powerless to study or analyze it and enable them to sit back and - hopefully for a couple of minutes at a time - just simply be... entertained.
Wayne - April 2002
· "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" is not a concept album - but it does have several "sound story" compositions connected throughout the record - the Yoshimi depicted in the songs and titles is a fictional character.
· Yoshimi P-we is a marvelously kind and beautiful woman who plays with the psyche-noise-experimental group the "Boredoms" and is the leader of her own band "OOIOO." She is a musician of extraordinary talent and uniqueness. Yoshimi P-we and the Flaming Lips became fast friends while both were playing on the Lollapallooza tour in 1994.
Comments on the Ideas of the Songs
1. "Fight Test" - The subject of the song is the singer's regret about taking the attitude of "not fighting" to an extreme - and by the end of the song realizes he's made a mistake and sometimes a person has no choice - as unpleasant as it may be... To surrender to every conflict without a challenge, he finds, is worse than getting beat up.
2. "One More Robot" - Loosely based on the story of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" - the robot is engineered specifically to destroy its opponent in a gladiator style fight to the death. But, this robot's circuitry (3000-21 model unit) has the capacity to react to changes with synthetic emotions - and even though it's programmed to kill her - it falls in love with Yoshimi - and by the end of the song (the sad reprise) the robot has decided to hill himself rather than harm Yoshimi...
3. "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1" - No one has ever beat the robots - but the audience feels confident that she can do it.
4. "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 2" - Yoshimi fights the robot and kills it - the audience loves her - but she is suspicious about how she was able to win.
5. "In The Morning Of The Magicians" - This questions the delicate balance of emotional dimensions that constitute love - is it a concept - is it real - what is love?? If a person believes they are loved, either by another person, by God or an animal or even by a machine, they are loved - what is the proof??
6. "Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell" - To derive one's happiness from only specific moments in time is to miss out on the cosmic accident that is all of life's moments...
7. "Are You A Hypnotist?" - Is hypnotism something that is done to you?? Or do you do it to yourself??
8. "It's Summertime - Throbbing Orange Pallbearers" - Intended as a song of encouragement to the grieving sisters of a Japanese girl who suddenly became ill and died in the late spring of 2000. But, I think in the end it was a song of encouragement to myself...
9. "Do You Realize??" - Whenever I analyze the scientific realities of what it means to be living here on Earth - in this galaxy - spinning around the sun - flying through space - a terror shock seizes me!!! I'm reminded once again of how precarious our whole existence is...
10. "All We Have Is Now" - The story of a man who glimpses himself through some rip in the fabric of time and space - at first his future-self is thought to be some eccentric old man - at last he realizes it was himself reporting from some distant tomorrow.
11. "Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon - Utopia Planitia" - Thought of as an ending of a fantastical adventure, an evening ride over the city - serene and exultant.