The tenth studio album from The Flaming Lips is an ambiguous musical fantasy, telling the tale of a fictional character named Yoshimi who defeats evil robots using the power of love, wonder, and… existentialism. Wayne Coyne assembles this musical in typical Lips fashion, using a colourful blend of sprightly synths, stirring basslines, and whimsical lyrics. It’s nonsense. Beautiful, vague nonsense.
In trying to tie down a detailed narrative, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots ends up being remarkably unfocused; built upon scattered moments that listeners are required to join together. It doesn’t exactly answer its own questions, and its depth can certainly be put into question, but so long as you take the album at face value, there’s a bundle of enjoyment to be had. The overall sound is consistent enough for the album to get away with the occasional oddity (“Yoshimi Pt. 2” sounds like The Flaming Lips covering a Sonic The Hedgehog boss battle), but it remains too obscure to make any sort of sense.
In my mind, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots functions best as a fantastical journey of curious thoughts and emotions. It’s clumsy, yet very loveable, and there’s nothing else quite like it. There are a handful of highlights that have become classics over time: the sweet and stomping sound of “Yoshimi Pt. 1”; the contagious chorus of “Do You Realize??”; the mysterious melodies that comprise “Are You a Hypnotist??”. These are some of the finest songs in the entire Lips discography, and are beloved sing-alongs at concerts.
The record has its fair share of flaws, but the high points wrap you in enough warmth to ensure a mostly wonderful experience. Its underlying message is to live for today, and to forget about the potential fear of the future, but Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots will ultimately mean different things to different people. Its reflective quality means you get out of it what you put in, and one way or another, it takes a special kind of album to do that.
8 out of 10
Boasting a lovely lightness and colour of sound, the Flaming Lips’s tenth studio album seems to me like a childish fantasy. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is baffling and nonsensical, but in a unique, creative, and colourful way. Although it very, very, very vaguely threatens to be a concept album, in practice it jumbles into something far more abstract and clumsy. Influences ranging from psychedelia to manga are pieced together throughout, although often toward a directionless end. As agreeable an impression as the album tends to make, it is a little mushy. It’s often charming in its childishness, but I’m not charmed by it. I find myself indulging it rather than believing it. The shiny whimsy of what goes on does not enchant me; it leaves me glazed.
The record feels overproduced, in every sense of the word, which keeps it from being more than pretty surface matter. Why is the album laughing and applauding at itself all the time? What on earth are the screaming noises on “Yoshimi Battles Pt. 2” for? Horrible. That said, these frustrations reflect a singular sense of let-down I get from the album. If it wasn’t so painstakingly produced, I think I’d fall for the scattered childhood memory cloud hook, line, and sinker. As things are, it’s a deeply pleasant listen with all the actual depth of a clean, sparkly pool of pink water.
7 out of 10
I’ve got a lot of love for The Flaming Lips’ tenth studio album. Setting its sound firmly between that of a live band and electronic outfit, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots has a distinctive, sometimes cinematic, always sunny style that stays with me long after each listen. Couple it together with a (very) loose narrative about the titular Yoshimi and her battle and it should sound intriguing to most just on paper.
In practice, YBPR does a lot in 45 minutes. Instrumentally, there are some impressive performances from the three band members across a variety of talents, with all three providing vocal and songwriting work for the album. The guitar, bass and drum arrangements of their previous work can be heard next to washes of otherworldly and squelchy synths and effects, giving the album its neo-psychedelic tinge and drawing a lot of comparisons with artists like Air and Daft Punk around the same period. Slow moving strings and additional percussion including tubular bells and timpani drums add a cinematic, interesting, warm sound to many tracks too. The instrumentals are where this melting pot of sound is allowed to shine, with “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 2” pausing for a three minute, noisy jam, and “Approaching Pavonis mons by Balloon” closing the album (rather abruptly!) with a serene, warming, gently evolving track. Lyrically, there’s nothing groundbreaking or soul destroying here, but tracks like “Do You Realize??” will likely get many into a reflective mood, with its pretty yet morbid themes.
With all that said, my score feels a little low. It’s a very strong 8 for me, but listening more critically, the slightly over-glossed production makes portions of YBPR a little easy to forget, especially where there’s less depth in some tracks nearer the end of the tracklist; and if I’m being nit-picky, the album’s close really does feel a little rushed and unconsidered when compared to the seamless flow of the opening third. A solid album for me that I’ll continue to return to for years to come, I’d expect.
8 out of 10