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Soft Bulletin

4.4 out of 5 stars 391 customer reviews

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The Soft Bulletin
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Audio CD, June 22, 1999
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Audio, Cassette, June 22, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Soft Bulletin is the most accessible album that psychedelic-noise-pop stalwarts The Flaming Lips have ever released. The album is different and new, courageous and accomplished, as unique as ever and yet more listenable than ever. Rhythmic, piano-laden, exploding with intelligence and sonic texture, The Soft Bulletin, the band's ninth album, continues the trio's adventure into other-worldly pop.

The Flaming Lips' particular and peculiar genius comes to full fruition on the stupendous The Soft Bulletin. Anyone who had the gumption to actually listen to Zaireeka, a song cycle that could only be heard by playing four CDs at the exact same time on different stereos, knows that head Lip Wayne Coyne and his Oklahoma City brethren had it in them. That album, along with the Lips' Parking Lot Experiments, offered proof that Coyne wasn't playing by the same rules as everyone else. He was growing up and away from the splenetic psychedelic freak-outs of earlier albums and emerging as a first-rate composer--perhaps the first alt-rock star to earn such status.

The Soft Bulletin is absolutely colossal, a testament to their position as the vanguard of a movement that includes Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs, and Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage. As with those albums, Bulletin shares a love of cosmic, vaguely psychedelic pop and a closet full of pet sounds. But the Flaming Lips only uses these as a launch pad for rocketing into ethereal sonic space. Although Bulletin steps back from Zaireeka's over-the-top indulgence, it manages to be symphonic, bombastic, outrageous, and damned catchy--while still oozing the band's unique weirdness. The sound is massive and complex; gongs, harps, grand piano, bells, pipe organ, strings, oboes, choral harmonies, and, strangely, very, very little guitar squall all merge into one wall--no, wall of sound doesn't do it justice. It's a cliff of sound, propelled by drummer Steven Drozd's tremendous pounding. On top of it all, Coyne's sweet but ravaged voice yields tender lyrics that tag a catalog of Lips stalwarts, such as insects, spirituality, and superheroes. One imagines Coyne in front of a full orchestra, urging them to keep up as he sings, "Ooh, those bugs / buzzing 'round..." on "Buggin." But the Lips orchestrated the entire album in their studio, sometimes manipulating more than 200 separate tracks to achieve Bulletin's vast symphonic excess. Each song is a rare gem. "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton" sounds like a collusion of Bach and Tricky. "The Spark That Bled" infuses a fey, Belle and Sebastian-esque ditty with Led Zeppelin-like funky swagger. "The Spiderbite Song" is a shotgun wedding between a tender piano ballad and the industrial noise of things falling apart. "The Gash" is just too singular to adequately describe.

It'll be interesting to hear what the Lips do next. If The Soft Bulletin is any indication at all, they can do anything they please. And we can't possibly imagine what it will sound like. --Tod Nelson

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 22, 1999)
  • Original Release Date: June 22, 1999
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Warner Bros / Wea
  • ASIN: B00000JC6C
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (391 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,763 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is not just a great album, this is an unbelievably rare album. Albums like this come once in a lifetime for most bands. Few bands are able to create musical experiences that could be called religious just out of their sheer beauty.
This album is beautiful, desperate, hopeless, hopefull, lost and constantly searching. This album reaches into your heart and holds it from beginning to end.
The Flaming Lips, as usual, are deceptively simple, with songs like "Buggin'" and "Race for the Prize" which contain what seem to be simple lyrics or a simple story, but it's never that simple. Reach deeper into the album, do a little more research. "Race for the Prize" isn't about a race, it's not about a scientist it's about finding a passion for something and loving it so much that you would hit rock bottom for it.
Songs like "Suddenly Everthing Has Changed" are introspectively genius, and with the mere descriptions of everyday tasks (folding laundry, putting away groceries, driving a car) and those being the moments in which everything changes.
"Waiting For Superman" is a beautiful song about desperation and waiting for the saving grace to lift up everything up of our shoulders that's "gettin' heavy."
Outside of the incredible lyrical beauty is the best production job I've heard in years on par with the likes of Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds." The album itself bears many parallels to Pet Sounds with the diverse array of instruments and sounds with orchestra, also the beautiful instrumental interludes, plus an overall wall of sound Phil Spector-ish boom to everything, especially within "The Gash.
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Format: Audio CD
I don't review often for Amazon, but I thought I'd review this album because I feel like I can offer up some info...

First, I hope that anyone investigating this album has already heard it - otherwise, please see all the terrific reviews for the ordinary CD version of this album.

In regards to this surround version of the record:

First, I'll say that generally speaking, the surround mix on this reissue is pretty amazing. The enhanced resolution allows the listener to hear things that are rendered unrecognizable by the stereo CD mix.

Fridmann and the Lips were very daring with the mix. None of the standard rules were followed here (i.e. vocals in the center channel, only "effects" in the rear, etc.). Instead, sounds completely envelope the listener from the full 360-degree spectrum.

The rule breaking didn't stop with the mix, though - the album features and entirely different track order, including one additional song that is not on the previously issued album. That song, Slow Motion, is terrific, and makes one wonder why it was chopped from the original Soft Bulletin.

The DVD surround mix is accompanied by an oscilloscope on the TV, which provides a very moody and psychedelic setting for listening to the album.

My only complaint is that the mix was executed as a true 5.1 mix, meaning it was geared toward a system that has 5 equally sized and equally powered speakers and a subwoofer. The liner notes say as much.

However, most 5.1 systems have significantly smaller rear speakers - and mine is no exception. So, the mix often has key elements strongly positioned in the rear speakers, including bassy elements, vocals, and everything else for that matter.
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Format: Audio CD
The Flaming Lips built their reputation on eclectic punk-rock and surrealistic lyrics. However, over the past few years, their music has continued to evolve and improve, both sonically and lyrically, resulting in two of the best albums of the past 10 years, "The Soft Bulletin" and, more recently, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots."
Sonically, the band has lost none of its wonderful intensity. However, the rough edges have been smoothed, and Wayne Coyne & Co. have continued to experiment with new sounds and textures. The result is simultaneously more innovative and more accessible than their earlier recordings. "The Soft Bulletin" is power-pop meets progressive rock meets trip-hop and space rock.
Lyrically, the Lips have evolved from Dali-like weirdness to songs that movingly reflect the tension between humanity (and concepts like love, hope, courage) and the depression and alienation of post-modern society. Their philosophical searching is reflected in song titles like "Suddenly Everything Has Changed," "Waitin' for a Superman," and "What Is the Light?", and in these lines from "The Gash":
I feel like the real reason that you're quitting is that you're admitting that you've lost all the will to battle on
Will the fight for our sanity be the fight of our lives now that we've lost all the reasons that we thought that we had
Still the battle that we're in rages on 'til the end.
With this record, the Flaming Lips have created a true work of art. This is the band that everyone should be talking about - it is not hyperbole to call "The Soft Bulletin" today's "Sgt. Pepper." Unfortunately, outside of the music press and some dedicated fans, no one else seems to care.
Do yourself a favor - give this one a spin.
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