Flaming Lips, ‘Christmas On Mars’ Soundtrack
I’m trying to review this as a soundtrack album so I haven’t yet watched the DVD of the Lips’ film Christmas On Mars – you get the two together in a CD pack. Just in case you haven’t heard about the film, it’s been seven years in the making, stars the Lips and friends, and was directed by Wayne Coyne, the Lips’ friend Bradley Beesley and George Salisbury. Beesley made the superb The Fearless Freaks: The Wondrously Improbable Story of The Flaming Lips, one of the best music documentaries I have ever seen, as well as videos for the band. The story is (apparently) even stranger than you might expect from the Lips, and more downbeat. In his sleevenotes Wayne says “we know, for certain, that life is bleak and dark… it is awkward and clumsy and devoid of all meaning. Therefore, it is up to us to make it beautiful and graceful. It is up to us to see its magic and wonder”. So while the film and music seem darker than the Lips’ usual – Wayne notes that ‘Approaching Pavis Mons By Balloon’ from Yoshimi was recorded for the film but was dropped as it felt too cheerful – the message from my favourite mystic humanist popstar is essentially the same as the sentiment of ‘Do You Realise?’
The 45-minute instrumental soundtrack (or ‘score’) is appropriately cold and spectral; I’m anticipating an Eraserhead-style take on 2001. But there are glimpses of something more hopeful, maybe even sublime. Lots of chirruping and buzzing electronics, quiet synths, harps and strings, the occasional bit of percussion – nothing like the over-the-top ELP/Jarre majesty of ‘Pavis’ or ‘Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung’. But pretty affecting all the same. Recommended – just remember to wear a big jumper while listening.
Pitchfork has the trailer – contains spoilers though I’m thinking the plot doesn’t really work like that.
Two tracks: a bit of buzzing and a great drone – turn it up, it fades in quietly – and the concluding song for a bit of cheer, though it is all relative. Then as a bonus, the Lips doing a more traditional attempt at a Christmas song, with the same message, more or less – just in case you felt like a hug after that exposure to the absolute cold of the vacuum.
‘The Distress Signals Of Celestial Objects‘ – The Flaming Lips – Christmas On Mars
‘Once Beyond Hopelessness‘ – The Flaming Lips – Christmas On Mars
‘A Change At Christmas (Say It Isn’t So)‘ – The Flaming Lips – Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell