5:45 p.m. Sunday
The Flaming Lips is an exercise in longevity. Its career track follows what a group of burnt out punk rockers' 25-year plan would look like after high school. The band has been in constant flux, from psychedelic rock to space pop to iPod generation stardom to acid-laced funk— all in a sweeping, naturally progressing gesture from 1983 to the present. While points A and B are admittedly different, the quarter-century growth period connects their epic pop odyssey, a dizzying circus of LSD anthems of galactic proportions. Now caught up to October's double-disc Embryonic (Warner Bros.), the band elaborates on the heavy end of 2006's At War With the Mystics and looks forward with neo-psychedelic freakouts. (Song titles like "The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine" and "Sagittarius Silver Announcement" give you an idea.) But that's not to say the album can't play next to the 2002 breakthrough Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which put light-hearted, wide-eyed battle cries like the title track and the ubiquitous "Do You Realize??" in our collective heads. The 2009 Lips is just as bright, wondrous and weird.
During the band's last Voodoo visit in 2007, frontman Wayne Coyne kicked off the set by rolling in a giant hamster ball above the crowd as glitter rained from the sky and inflatable aliens and Santa Claus figures waved onstage to the fist-pumping, keyboard-powered "Race for the Prize" from 1999's The Soft Bulletin. From there, the kaleidoscopic opera favored tracks from Mystics and Yoshimi. With a fresh album under their belts, the fortysomethings channeling the Lips' sound may venture into a new frontier for the 2009 audience. Space cadets, welcome aboard. — Alex Woodward