Lyric of the Day: More Flaming Lips

While I continue to be extremely excited about my latest musical obsession, Portland, Oregon band Menomena, I listened to a song today titled If, by my predominant obsession over the past year or so, The Flaming Lips, and it really caught my attention.

As I listened and took in the lyrics, I found myself seriously challenged, challenged as I have been by much of the Lips’ most recent album — Embryonic. From the disturbing album cover (shown here) to several music videos containing images that I can barely stand to look at, and finally the near total absence of fun, melodic hooks, I pretty much wrote it off as a stumble from an otherwise consistently great band, determined to ride it out in hopes of a better follow-up.

And then I saw them in concert in November, where they played a half dozen songs from Embryonic, which sounded really frickin’ good, pulsing with energy and fitting in nicely with the rest of their repertoire.

And then I started to listen to the album without all the visual aids, and the songs sounded better and better. Dark for sure, but moments of beautiful, peaceful respite interspersed.

And then I listened closely to the lyrics of If and I came up with an interpretation of Ebryonic that I think helps me accept what Wayne Coyne (lyricist) is up to creatively.

People are evil, it’s true
But on the other side
They can be gentle too
If they decide

But they don’t always decide
We live on the impulses
Love is powerful
But not as powerful as evil

People are evil, it’s true
But on the other side
They can be gentle too
If they decide, they decide

Now, I’m NOT someone who believes that evil is more powerful than love, and I don’t subscribe to the old biblical canard that people are born with an evil inclination and a good inclination and it’s a matter of free will as to which way they will choose to go. Oh, I know people certainly do choose to act in evil ways all the time, but I don’t buy it that they do this because they were born with some evil predisposition.

The song If and much of the rest of Embryonic, then, suggest to me that Wayne has been exploring the dark side of existence, wrestling with the extreme dichotomy of life, the miraculousness of beauty and love mingled with the horrors of evil. It’s an understandable wrestling match to engage in.

We want to make sense of this painful Ying & Yang, and we’ve been trying to make sense of it for millennia. And somehow, when I consider the full body of Wayne’s work, work that contains lyrics like “Love/In our life/Is just to valuable/To feel/For even a second/Without it”, and when I think about the impressions I have of Wayne as a person, gleaned from the documentary The Fearless Freaks, interviews, and in person at the concert I attended, I don’t think he really believes that evil is more powerful than love.

Does anyone, while considering the darkest of dark human actions, not lose faith, at least temporarily, in the inherent goodness of people?

Surely, there’s nothing in the Embryonic lyrics, or on the album cover, or in the videos that even comes close to the real terrible and violent events that happen everyday, and if it makes me uncomfortable then so be it.

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