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DVD Review – The Fearless Freaks – The Wondrously Improbable Story Of The Flaming Lips

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The truth of the matter, I feel obliged to relate, is that I was a fairly late-comer to the table reserved for Folks What Dig The Flaming Lips Somethin’ Savage. I could yack on about how it was The Duke and The Duke alone who pushed She Don’t Use Jelly in the direction of all that MTV rotation, but no, I’d be talking out my arsehole, and worse, probably using some sort of comedy accent nobody could ever hope to understand.

The horrible facts of the case are that, in the final analysis, it would appear that it took until well after the release and subsequent critical adoration of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots before I bothered to give them a second of my time. What happened was I picked up Yoshimi and the album that preceded it, The Soft Bulletin, on the very same day, and I have to say, man, it weren’t no divine revelation flooding The Duke upon commencing the ol’ press-play / sit-back, 1-2 combo.

I thought it was very smart, for sure. I imagined students probably dug the hell out of it. Intelligent, I mused, but that’s enough of that.

The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi… were filed away, and who could even begin to imagine whether or not The Duke would ever reach for them ever again in the here or hereafter?

Until!

One day, one day when a fella was basking in the light of The Libertines, I got a curious craving in the midst of the gut-paste.

Mother of fuck, I announced to no one in particular, I simply must put on those records again, those records about Pink Bulletins or Soft Robots or whatever the hell. Something tells me these records are just about set for to blow The Duke’s balls out the back of his head.

That right there, it would appear, is pretty much what occurred. Three weeks later I was still pickin’ testicle out from behind my ears.

I can only assume that the period of hibernation, all those months spent curled up next to The Finger and The Fall in the CD cupboard, it had somehow rejuvenated these compact CD’s. Some glorious metamorphism had taken place, this oh-so-clever “student music” had somehow, via means I can only assume to have included plenty voodoo and pixie-dust, become the most spellbinding, life-affirming music I had heard since back in the day when the girl with the eyes like fire used to lull me to sleep by singing softly bout sweets.

What immediately occurred was that The Flaming Lips subtly infiltrated every corner of every list I ever made, particularly lists concerning Songs What Make Me Feel Like Bubbles or Songs What Make The Dawn Last A Fortnight.

The Flaming Lips, it turned out, spent their time crafting glorious symphonic, psychedelic, uplifting, spiritual pop music. It turned out I loved them. It turned out nothing got a fella smiling like an early morning chaser in the key of Race For The Prize.

Nowadays I adore these Flaming Lips fellas, and so you’ll be less than amazed, dazzled, shocked to the back of the liver and so on, when I reveal something about how The Fearless Freaks, Bradley Beesley’s stunning career-spanning Lips documentary, got me giddy as a fella hopped on the whiskey-cracks for the best part of a month.

Less expected is banter along the lines of how this is undoubtedly one of the best flicks of the year.

Look here, a quote for some poster of some sort in the future time; “The Fearless Freaks, I dare say, is not just a fantastic Rockumentary, but a truly glorious slice of cinema.”

What possesses a man to make these kinds of hyperbolic proclamations? What the fuck sights has he seen for to instil such evangelical zest?

Sights culled from every corner of The Flaming Lips’ existence, for one thing. Beesley pays attention to the music, for sure, but he pays just as much attention, if not more, to the human dramas, to the characters behind those stunning compositions.

We see footage of The Fearless Freaks, a football team featuring a buncha future-Lips plus siblings, friends, assorted dope-soaked malcontents. We see Lips frontman Wayne Coyne talk us through an armed robbery in a fast-food joint he used to work in. We see early live-shows, the truly abysmal music serving as a superfluous soundtrack to the demented stage-bound abandon. Fire, motorbikes used as instruments, terrifying haircuts.

We see Wayne wandering around the set of his in-production sci-fi opus Christmas In Mars, a wonderful spacecraft set erected in his driveway.

We see musical genius Steve Drodz shooting up in a tiny garden shed, talking us through the procedure, the brown bubbling away on a spoon, Drodz peeking out the window as he prepares a vein, then gabbering maniacally as the “orgasm” ploughs a furrow from his arm to his brain. I imagine that even if the last thing you can think of wanting to do is sitting down with Yoshimi and her Robots of an evening, that scene right there will still kick the teeth out any face fit to gaze.

A Spoonful Weighs A Ton, indeed.

The Fearless Freaks is fit to sit alongside any rock documentary you care to mention, it’s a flick that transcends the musical shenanigans to become something that anyone with a thirst for beautiful character sketches or human drama, whether unbearably tragic or wonderfully uplifting, really needs to be seeing.

The same way The Duke cheered for hours after seeing Some Kind Of Monster, despite the fact that the subject – Metallica make a truly shitty record – seems like the last thing anyone wants to be bothered with, the same way Hated – GG Allin & The Murder Junkies is a mesmerizing flick regardless of the shockingly feckless tunesmithery, just the same is how The Fearless Freaks slaps a man’s yap purple with tragedy, with hope, with humanity and plenty heart, even if the music ain’t nothing worth a damn to half the audience.

The music is spellbinding, mind. Just that it don’t matter if you don’t dig it, this is still a remarkable motion picture.

What it all comes down to, should you need a nice conclusion to the tale, is that even if I couldn’t give less than half of nothing for the tunes woven by these fellas, I think I would still find this to be an incredible, bizarre, beautiful motion film that, for sure, has a couple moments of serious gut-thrashing tragedy, but, ultimately, reveals itself to be just about as uplifting as falling asleep in the black and waking up with the sun teasing the blinds and a street-choir stood across the road singing Waitin’ For A Superman.

What it is, is a film about a buncha wonderful people who end up becoming one of the most exciting rock bands in the here or there, a group of people united by a love of punk-rock and The Butthole Surfers, a buncha folks who initially couldn’t string a G# together for all the money in fuck, who wander through any number of hiccups and disasters to end up someplace close to divine.

The 2-Disc DVD is stuffed to the throat with extra tomfoolery, best of which is the commentary track featuring the filmmakers and the band themselves, filled with anecdotes and observations and surreal revelations. Who knew one of em once won an Adam Ant lookalike contest?

In addition, there’s a load of excellent deleted material, some live performances, and the usual array of photo galleries and slideshows and the like.

The Fearless Freaks is just a beautiful motion flick, is all there is to it. I couldn’t recommend the damn thing any more if you had me tied up with shoe-laces and hung over an inferno, threatening to cut the binds at any second if I don’t relate with more zealous mania just how fantastic it all is.

I love it with the kinda intensity could get a man a night in the cells in certain quarters. Just fucking incredible, is all there is to it.

Thanks folks.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    For the last month, this DVD has been sitting in the ever-expanding pile of to-be-devoured books and films that threatens to overtake my living room. I need to carve out some time this weekend to take this in. I love the Lips, and like you, Duke, I got to know them around the time that Yoshimi was released, and very shortly thereafter, I saw them in concert, and from that moment, I was hooked. Thanks for the review – if I needed a little push to remind me that this film requires my attention, you’ve provided it.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Thanks Lisa! an i know what you mean about those oppressive piles of flicks and books and the like. I picked up stuff at least two years ago that i still haven’t got round to seeing. Dogville, for example, i ain’t laid eyes on since its been here.

    but yes, you’ll love this flick, i’d wager. It truly is gorgeous.

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