[B]'Race For The Prize'[/B] feels like the work of people who've suddenly discovered a new way of breathing, and are decent enough to want to share their excitement with the rest of us.

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Flaming Lips : Race for the prize

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Flaming Lips : Race for the prize

They’ve always been more than just a great American rock band, but few realised exactly how far ahead The Flaming Lips were thinking until ‘Zaireeka’, their one-album-on-four-CDs headflip, served notice that these people were no longer content with making music that merely sounded like the future. ‘Zaireeka’ begat ‘The Soft Bulletin’, and now that good-money bet for album of the year begets ‘Race For The Prize’, an explosion of euphoria wherein all the best pop records of the past 30-odd years are simultaneously acknowledged then rejected, as the Lips proceed to make something different, if not necessarily better, than anything we’ve heard before.

Without knowing exactly how they do it, one can only surmise

whether

the Lips are clever, lucky, or a happy combination of the two. Yet ‘Race For The Prize’ feels like the work of people who’ve suddenly discovered a new way of breathing, and are decent enough to want to share their excitement with the rest of us. This is the radio-friendly Peter Mokran mix, yet even in relatively conventional form, ‘Race For The Prize’ is a dense, wholeheartedly strange piece of music. The keynote melodic theme sounds like treated whale song, an appropriately hopeful and sad context for the song’s tale of scientific endeavour in the face of mortal danger. When Wayne Coyne sings, [I]”They’re just humans with wives and children”[/I], and his fractured falsetto

keen

is subsumed by the onrushing tide, it’s as emotive a moment as mere pop music generally affords.

Live, they do it with a gong, and naturally, it’s even better. Thanks to The Flaming Lips, The future. Is. Now.

JAMES OLDHAM