Oklahoma's wacky, psychedelic Flaming Lips are card-carrying artistic provocateurs, always forgoing the usual rock-star career trajectory in favor of the expect-the-unexpected route. So in the wake of 1997's Zaireeka, a four-disc set designed to be played *simultaneously*, and singer/writer/guitarist Wayne Coyne's adventures in soundscapes with his forty car stereo avant garde escapade "Parking Lot Experiment" and its indoor sequel, "Boom Box Experiment," it almost makes sense that the band's forthcoming, fourteenth album would be, gasp, commercial.
The band has been in an Oklahoma studio since spring of 1997 working on the tentatively titled A Soft Bulletin, which is scheduled for release on April 27. Although the album is under tight security at the band's label, sources reveal that Bulletin is a much more pop album than anything the group has ever done. Of course, given that the Lip's last radio-friendly moment came with "She Don't Use Jelly" from 1993's Transmisions From the Satellite Heart, one might expect Coyne to unleash a multi-disc affair overflowing with polished pop gems and demos. Guess again.
"Longer doesn't necessarily mean more songs," Coyne promises. "I was listening to an interview with Peter Buck on the radio and he was telling the interviewer how they had written forty new songs [for their latest record]. And I thought, 'Good God, man! I think most of their songs suck anyway, and they don't have much variety . . . you have forty songs, why don't you sit on them for a while and make five good ones out of them?' I'm not saying everyone needs to think that way, because I do. Hopefully because we've been working so long, our songs are deeper and richer, instead of just more of them."
In addition, the singer insists that he and the band -- comprised of Coyne along with bassist Mike Ivins and drummer Steven Drozd -- have left the ironic, in-joke novelty of "She Don't Use Jelly" behind.
"The Soft Bulletin, is the next stop in the progression we've forced ourselves into," Coyne reveals. "We started off wanting to explore. Not necessarily more serious kind of songs, just more emotionally-based songs, instead of being just ironic and silly. I was trying to get away from all that. I said to the guys, 'let's just make music that we love.' I think some of the irony was good, but I didn't want to be known as a jokester anymore."
The Lips are still vague about exactly when they plan to hit the road (they haven't toured in two and a half years), but when they do, they'll be revamping their live show, too. "I think we'll probably be playing stuff that's pre-recorded and we'll be playing along with it," says Coyne. "I'm not sure if that's actually going to work or not, but that's what we're looking at at the moment. Actually, I don't know why doing it this way didn't occur to us earlier, because we really do compromise what the songs really do sound like live. I think this is a much better solution, even if people think this is sort of a cop-out. I don't really care about that. I would much rather hear a great recording than a s----y live rendition. Besides, I really think the way that the record industry is now, there's too many bands playing.
"And what's the worse thing that could happen to me if people didn't like the stuff? I'd have to go out and get a job," he says, only half joking. "I mean, how horrible is that?"