(Warner Bros., 2002)
Wayne Coyne has recently said in several interviews that “Do You Realize” will probably end up being what the Flaming Lips are best remembered for, and I think that’s a canny (and, coming from a musician, uncharacteristically honest) read on things, as the song is the clearest summation of the blend of Christmas-y optimism and death-acceptance that has colored the band’s work since Clouds Taste Metallic. Production-wise, it also stands as the ultimate late-period Lips/Fridmann song, with rich acoustic guitars a-strummin’, bells a-clangin’, drums a-poundin’, and synth flourishes a-burblin’. Heavenly stuff for sure, and while it does seem to be fairly well-known thanks to its many appearances in TV commercials, it’s surprising that “Do You Realize” didn’t do so well on the charts – it never appeared on Billboard in the U.S., and only made it to 32 in the U.K. Given that the subsequent Yoshimi singles performed better as critics slobbered all over the album throughout the year, it seems a missed opportunity that Warner failed to reissue and re-promote such an accessible song (as Mercury Rev did with “Goddess on a Hiway”).
“Up Above the Daily Hum,” which is on the other side of this fancy picture disc, is a reworking of a song from the Soft Bulletin days (a 1999 radio performance is on the Bulletin 5.1 DVD). The vocal melody in the bridge is extremely nice, but the treacly muzak quality of the electronics/piano-based instrumental track stands as a warning of what bland paths the Flaming Lips could have easily followed from here. While I’m no huge fan of At War With the Mystics, a descent into cosmic alt-Manilow crooning would have been much, much worse.