The story behind The Flaming Lips’ 1997 album Zaireeka has all the traits of Rock & Roll legend: tensions amongst the band members, a member quits, the band struggles to reinvent themselves, drugs, car crashes, and pressure from the record label. It’s all there, and it all led to the kind of creative breakthrough that can often emerge from the most unlikely and seemingly dysfunctional of situations.
For anyone not interested in reading all the sordid and not-so-sordid details, in a nutshell, Zaireeka was a bizarre experiment, an album consisting of tracks recorded on 4 separate CDs, meant to be played simultaneously on 4 separate sound systems.
Now, you might say that’s asking a lot of fans, to bring all of their CD players, amps, and speakers together in one room, set them all up, and coordinate 4 people to press Play on all 4 CD players at exactly the same time. You’d be right, of course, and the band has always admitted that this was asking a lot, and they always had clear expectations that only their hardcore fans and geek audiophiles would actually indulge them.
As the latest of many continuous signs that the band has lost none of their experimental tendencies in the succeeding years, Pitchfork reports today that the Lips are working on a reissue of Zaireeka, designed to be played on 4 cell phones.
Ok, so, if you want to hear the album on something other than the crappy speakers on your cell phone, you still have to bring together 4 sound systems to truly enjoy it. But it is a new, fun way to participate in the experiment, and it’s clear that fun is what it is all about when you watch this video of Wayne and Steven demonstrating the process, for some reason, in a bathtub.