The Soft Bulletin

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The Soft Bulletin
Studio album by The Flaming Lips
Released May 17, 1999
Recorded April 1997 – February 1999
Cassadaga, New York, USA
Genre Neo-psychedelia, space rock, experimental rock, indie rock
Length 58:26
Label Warner Bros.
Producer The Flaming Lips, Dave Fridmann, Scott Booker
The Flaming Lips chronology
Zaireeka
(1997)
The Soft Bulletin
(1999)
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
(2002)
Singles from The Soft Bulletin
  1. "Race for the Prize"
    Released: June 14, 1999
  2. "Waitin' for a Superman"
    Released: September 6, 1999

The Soft Bulletin is the ninth album released by The Flaming Lips on May 17, 1999 in the UK, with a US release following on June 22, 1999. It was released to wide critical acclaim and hailed by critics as a departure from their previous guitar-heavy alternative rock sound, into a more layered and intricately arranged work.

Production[edit]

Music and lyrical content[edit]

The album was considered to mark a change in the course for the band, with more traditional catchy melodies and accessible-sounding music (their previous album, 1997's Zaireeka, was a quadruple album of experimental sounds meant to be played on four separate stereo systems simultaneously) and lyrics that were more serious and thoughtful in content.[1]

The album was noted for its fusion of ordinary rock instruments, electronic beats and synthesizers. Its large, layered, symphonic sound has also earned it a reputation as the Pet Sounds of the 1990s from a few critics.[2][3]

Artwork[edit]

The cover artwork of the album is a modified version of a photograph taken by Lawrence Schiller for a 1966 Life magazine article on LSD.[4]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Pitchfork Media (10.0/10)[5]
NME (9/10)[6]
Tiny Mix Tapes 5/5 stars[7]
Allmusic 5/5 stars[8]
Robert Christgau (B)[9]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[10]

The Soft Bulletin was lauded by critics and fans alike and topped numerous "Best of 1999" lists. The album is now considered by many to be the Flaming Lips' masterpiece.[11] The Soft Bulletin is considered by some to be partially responsible for establishing the latter-day identity of The Flaming Lips, and as its following expanded over the years after its release, paving the way to their being among the most well-respected groups of the 2000s. The album sold 38,000 copies in the U.S. in 2006.[12]

In 2006, Robert Dimery chose The Soft Bulletin and its follow-up Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots as part of his book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[13] Pitchfork Media ranked the album 3rd on the Top 100 albums of the 1990s list,[14] and awarded it a rare score of 10.0.

Upon the album's ten-year anniversary in May 2009, The Record Review featured the album as a part of its "Ten Years Later" feature, saying that "ten years removed, The Soft Bulletin is still an undeniably essential listen that belongs in every record collection."[15] It was announced that in July 2011 the band would perform the record live in its entirety as part of All Tomorrow's Parties 'Don't Look Back' season.[16]

Track listings[edit]

Upon its release, The Soft Bulletin was subject to record company demands for commercial-sounding music, hence the inclusion of remixes of several songs. In addition, the US and UK CDs each contain one track that the other does not, "The Spiderbite Song" and "Slow Motion" respectively.

US CD release[edit]

All songs written and composed by The Flaming Lips

No. Title Length
1. "Race for the Prize" (Mokran Remix) 4:09
2. "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton"   3:32
3. "The Spark That Bled" ("The Softest Bullet Ever Shot") 5:55
4. "The Spiderbite Song"   4:02
5. "Buggin'" (Mokran Remix) 3:16
6. "What Is the Light?" ("An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] by Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the "Big Bang" That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe") 4:05
7. "The Observer"   4:11
8. "Waitin' for a Superman" ("Is It Gettin' Heavy?") 4:17
9. "Suddenly Everything Has Changed" ("Death Anxiety Caused by Moments of Boredom") 3:54
10. "The Gash" ("Battle Hymn for the Wounded Mathematician") 4:02
11. "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate"   5:17
12. "Sleeping on the Roof" (excerpt from "Should We Keep the Severed Head Awake??") 3:09
13. "Race for the Prize" ("Sacrifice of the New Scientists") 4:18
14. "Waitin' for a Superman" (Mokran Remix) 4:19
Total length:
58:26

UK and Australian CD release[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Race for the Prize"   4:18
2. "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton"   3:32
3. "The Spark That Bled"   5:55
4. "Slow Motion"   3:53
5. "What Is the Light?"   4:05
6. "The Observer"   4:10
7. "Waitin' for a Superman"   4:17
8. "Suddenly Everything Has Changed"   3:54
9. "The Gash"   4:02
10. "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate"   5:17
11. "Sleeping on the Roof"   3:09
12. "Race for the Prize" (Mokran Remix) 4:09
13. "Waitin' for a Superman" (Mokran Remix) 4:19
14. "Buggin'" (Mokran Remix) 3:16

Vinyl release[edit]

Side One
No. Title Length
1. "Race for the Prize"    
2. "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton"    
3. "The Spark That Bled"    
4. "The Spiderbite Song"    
Side Two
No. Title Length
5. "Buggin'"    
6. "What Is the Light?"    
7. "The Observer"    
Side Three
No. Title Length
8. "Waitin' for a Superman"    
9. "Suddenly Everything Has Changed"    
10. "The Gash"    
Side Four
No. Title Length
11. "Slow Motion"    
12. "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate"    
13. "Sleeping on the Roof"    

The Soft Bulletin 5.1[edit]

On January 31, 2006, Warner Bros. re-released The Soft Bulletin in the US as a two-disc package titled The Soft Bulletin 5.1. It includes a remastered CD and a DVD-Audio disc that contains a 5.1-channel surround sound mix of the album.

Package content[edit]

CD and DVD
  1. "Race for the Prize (Sacrifice of the New Scientists)" – 4:18
  2. "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton" – 3:32
  3. "The Spark That Bled (The Softest Bullet Ever Shot)" – 5:55
  4. "Slow Motion" – 3:49
  5. "What Is the Light? (An Untested Hypothesis Suggesting That the Chemical [In Our Brains] By Which We Are Able to Experience the Sensation of Being in Love Is the Same Chemical That Caused the "Big Bang" That Was the Birth of the Accelerating Universe)" – 4:05
  6. "The Observer" – 4:11
  7. "Waitin' for a Superman (Is it Gettin' Heavy??)" – 4:17
  8. "Suddenly Everything Has Changed (Death Anxiety Caused by Moments of Boredom)" – 3:54
  9. "The Gash (Battle Hymn for the Wounded Mathematician)" – 4:02
  10. "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" – 5:23
  11. "Sleeping on the Roof (Excerpt From "Should We Keep the Severed Head Awake??")" – 3:04
  12. "The Spiderbite Song" – 4:02
  13. "Buggin' (The Buzz of Love Is Busy Buggin' You)" – 3:22
DVD videos
  1. "Race for the Prize" – 4:26
  2. "Waitin' for a Superman" – 4:39
DVD outtakes
  1. "1000 Ft. Hands" – 5:50
  2. "The Captain Is a Cold Hearted and Egotistical Fool" – 5:14
  3. "Satellite of You" – 4:32
DVD radio sessions
  1. "Up Above the Daily Hum" – 4:38
  2. "The Switch That Turns Off the Universe" – 7:54
  3. "We Can't Predict the Future" – 3:04
  4. "It Remained Unrealizable" – 8:34

Notably, the album track list for the 5.1 package is the definitive track list that the band had intended but was unable to release in 1999[citation needed]. A few notes:

  • The 5.1 package has the UK tracklist with the remixes at the end removed. They were replaced with "The Spiderbite Song" and the original mix of "Buggin'" which had previously only seen release on a US promotional CD.
  • This package marks the first time that US consumers have been able to get "Slow Motion" on CD, as this had previously only been available on the UK CD and the US vinyl releases.

Packaging error[edit]

The first pressings of The Soft Bulletin 5.1 were erroneously shipped with an original US CD instead of the new remastered CD with the revised track list. The band is offering to replace the incorrect CD with the new version for anyone who received the wrong CD in their package.[17] In addition, many people who have sent their incorrect CDs in for replacements have also received a hand-written letter of apology from the band's bassist, Michael Ivins. Warner Bros. has since fixed this problem and is now shipping 5.1 packages to retailers with the correct CD included.

Personnel[edit]

The Flaming Lips
Production
  • The Flaming Lips - production, mix, recording
  • Dave Fridmann - production, mix, recording
  • Michael Ivins - additional engineering
  • Scott Booker - production
  • Steve Hall - mastering (at Future Disc Systems)
Remixes
  • Peter Mokran - additional production & mix
  • Scott Bennett - additional bass on "Waitin' for a Superman (Remix)"
Packaging
  • Lawrence Schiller - cover photograph
  • George Salisbury - layout & design

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Flaming Lips official site, Soft Bulletin album notes
  2. ^ Mojo Pie Artist of the Week thread, April 17, 2005
  3. ^ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "The Best of 1999/Pop CDs
  4. ^ Life Staff. "Original article". Life. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  5. ^ Josephes, Jason (July 1, 1999). "Review: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Review: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin". IPC Media. April 6, 1999. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  7. ^ P, Mr. "Review: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin". tinymixtapes.com. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  8. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Review: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Review: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin". Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  10. ^ BERGER, ARION (May 27, 1999). "Review: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin". Jann Wenner. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 
  11. ^ Editorial review of The Soft Bulletin 5.1 on Amazon.com
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ [2][dead link]
  14. ^ Pitchfork Staff. "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  15. ^ Name (required) (2009-08-06). "Ten Years Later: The Flaming Lips « The Record Review". Recordreview.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 
  16. ^ "The Flaming Lips performing The Soft Bulletin + Dinosaur Jr perform Bug + Deerhoof perform Milk Man - All Tomorrow's Parties". Atpfestival.com. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 
  17. ^ Information on the CD mess-up on producer Dave Fridmann's website