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Magic Bulletin Theory

The Flaming Lips say no to a normal Zaireeka; prepare new album

April 30, 1998 12:00 AM ET

When the Flaming Lips conceived Zaireeka, they were brimming with innovation, but lacking in foresight. In order the enjoy the album to its full sonic potential, listeners must employ four -- count 'em, four -- CD players to play each of Zaireeka's discs simultaneously. Obviously, the poor sap with only one CD player -- God forbid -- can still enjoy Zaireeka a CD at a time, but only relish a quarter of the album's wall of sound.

Friends of the Lips, like Ben Folds and others on the inside, have bragged that they've procured a full mix of Zaireeka, fueling speculation that the band might cave and offer a user-friendly version of Zaireeka to the mass audience.

Wrong.

"What I've tried to do is give [the listener] four orgasms at one time," Coyne says. "And what a lot of people want is to get the four orgasms, but only feel a quarter of them -- so it's one again."

One is enough for a Viagra user, but it's not good enough for the Lips. "Some of the [four CDs] I don't feel are really powerful without the four CD element being there," he adds. "I think sometimes that the atmosphere it creates is better than the creation itself. I don't know if you take it out of that format it would mean as much, so I don't plan to [re-release Zaireeka with a full mix]."

In the meantime, the group will continue to stage Parking Lot (or Boombox) Experiments, where the Lips herd fans into small arenas to play Zaireeka on four separate players so listeners can revel in its intended sound. "As the night progresses it goes from being as simple as pressing the play button to [using] different levels and rhythms for each person [controlling the boombox]," he says.

Those who can't stomach paying to listen to a live mix of the quad-album will be happy to know the Lips are preparing to release a conventional single-disc album early next year with the working title The Soft Bulletin. The album title is a play off "the soft bullet in," a line from one of the new songs, according to Coyne. "If someone gave you the choice of getting shot in the head with one of those new shielded bullets that will destroy everything or getting shot in the head with a really soft one that won't hurt but do the same damage, I'll take the soft one," he explains. "It's just the crazy idea of soft bullets."

Coyne says The Soft Bulletin will include "about twelve or thirteen" songs that didn't fit the mold of the quadraphonic Zaireeka. "In a way, [when] we did [The Soft Bulletin], it felt like a retreat," Coyne says, "like this is not what were here to do ... [But] knowing that [these songs] failed, we could go back and put them on one CD like the rest of the planet does."

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