There Were No Grenades At The Flaming Lips' Stage Production Of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots"
The news-humping opportunist in me would try to tell you that the La Jolla Theater’s production of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a lot like bringing a disarmed grenade into an airport. If you know anything about The Flaming Lips, you would know that most things they do could be adequately compared to bringing a disarmed grenade into an airport. It’s profoundly reckless, it requires a total absence of forethought, it both scares and enthralls a great number of people, and ultimately it’s something you laugh about years down the line. That, and Wayne Coyne of the flaming lips actually brought a motherfucking disarmed grenade to a motherfucking airport. But a career writing powerfully honest songs about love and death is not like bringing a grenade into an airport--unless perhaps you’ve murdered your significant others, but this production isn’t about that either. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is not the bombastic color-diarrhea blowout you might expect, it’s actually a quirky, abstract meditation on the things that we can’t stop thinking about.
The album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots arrived in 2002. It had a very loose concept, one that didn’t stretch far beyond some girl named Yoshimi taking vitamins to fight pink robots. There were also a lot of songs about the inevitability of death, something that stood in weird contrast to the goofy karate sounds. The production stretches out those melancholy themes and kitschy tones into a collected narrative. Our hero, Yoshimi, is diagnosed with cancer. The pink robots are casted as cancer cells. Two men, a dorky dude in a fedora and a black guy with a much better voice, fight for her affection. Most of this is transferred to the audience without a scrap of dialogue. Outside of a few contextual paragraphs, these characters spend the entirety of their time on stage singing Flaming Lips songs.
There are vibrant dance scenes of woven, ninja-lite nurses taking on the pink robots, and there are solemn, quiet moments of a girl suffering from melanoma lying in her hospital bed. This is not a happy story; in fact it’s not even an unrealistic story. The Flaming Lips have turned perhaps their biggest pop success into a play about caring for someone who isn’t well. This seems like a strange endeavor, but somehow everything clicks. At times it seems like Wayne Coyne’s entire songwriting career was intended as a framework for this sort of story. “Race For the Prize” is shaded with two scientists partnering up, struggling to come up with a suitable treatment for their dying patient. “Suddenly Everything Has Changed” is sung by Yoshimi’s parents, as they contemplate the tenuous place of their daughter’s life. Even “Sympathy 3000-21,” one of the dorkiest songs ever written, comes off remarkably tender.
I won’t spoil anything, but I will say the last song performed is “Do You Realize??” At which point my mom, my sister, and my dad started crying, and perhaps watching more than half your family break down in tears at the conclusion of a pop-derived musical is sort of like bringing a disarmed grenade into an airport. But it says something about Yoshimi, and the Flaming Lips in general, that they can take you from such immaculate sci-fi heights, while still getting real at the end. This is a musical that used karate to fight off hypothetical cancer cells in several pitch-black fantasy sequences. At one point the two lead characters get high and the couch they’re sitting on levitates several feet into the sky. These are very silly things, but they’re played with such honesty that when things swing back around and we’re asked to ruminate hard on the unavoidable folly of our existence, it doesn’t feel out of place. We realize that life moves fast, it’s hard to make the good things last. Yoshimi tells us that our consciousness is worth both celebrating and understanding, and it articulates those obvious sentiments better than you might ever expect. I left the theater, and I thought about being alive.
The Charcoal Grills of Fang Island’s Jason Bartell
Gold and charcoal, together at last.
Banoffee Owes A Lot To Soundcloud
Navigating The Realities Of Finding Yourself Internet Famous
This Modern Love: We Are Scientists
Do you rate 'BASEketball,' love Hanes v-necks, and dancing to goofy-ass, Prohibition-era jazz? You may be the lady Keith from We Are Scientists has been scouring the planet for.
A Conversation with New York Legend—Photographer Maripol
Photographer/Designer Maripol's styled Madonna, Deborah Harry, and Grace Jones. She talks about her experiences in NY in the early 80s, her new book, plus here's the premiere of her song and video for "Tuesday."
Here's 11 Awesome Things About Petite Meller's Video for "IceBear" ft. Joe Fleisch
Parisian pop princess goes winter wonderland weird.
Here's "Hero"—The Brand New Tune by Diplo, Frank Ocean, and The Clash
We hung out with the boys in Brooklyn about this unlikely collaboration
"Daughter, Daughter" by D/C Will Make You Root for the Supposed Bad Boy
When will parents understand that when they butt into your love life, you're gonna run 100 miles per hour in the other direction?
An Interview With Georgia Nott of BROODS
Gorgia Nott has a lot to be happy about. At 19, the New Zealand musician is half of BROODS, one of the quickest rising duos in electronic pop music at the moment.
Keep Up With Our SXSW 2014 Coverage Here
Hopefully, we don't die.
The Score: Mapping the Music and Style of 'That Thing You Do!'
Sixties chic via the 90s and that one song over and over and over.