Concept albums are always nice—if they work thematically, and if the creators take the time to write good songs to support their concept. In the case of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips have done just that, giving us not only an excellent concept album, but one of the best pop-psych albums of the late 20th century.
The lyrics take us through heroes and villains, robots, time travel, and how the universe works. It borrows a few elements from the Buggles' masterful concept album The Age of Plastic, but moves beyond that work's edgy techno-apocalyptic theme to explore more cosmic concepts.
The album starts with "Fight Test," a bouncy gem of feel-good rock. Next up, "One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21" is a lush, dreamy song that is perhaps the most direct reference to The Age of Plastic, picking up where "I Love You, Miss Robot" left off. The title track, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1" has a certain silly charm that somehow works its way into the Unforgettable Zone of one's brain core.
"In the Morning of the Magicians" is an aching bit of melodic pop-psych that questions the use of emotions in the context of the universal scheme of things. "Do You Realize??" (which will be familiar to many from its use in Nissan commercials a few years back) is a nice romantic ballad with a flower-pop tinge. "Are You a Hypnotist??" takes our brains from an entrancing soundscape to visions of soaring high above earth's atmosphere.
"Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon" finishes up the album—a swaying piece of smooth, jazzy psychedelia that lifts us out of the depths we were taken to in the song before with the haunting, heart-wrenching, time-travelly "All We Have Is Now."
Our habit here at Grinning Planet is to prepare a three-tiered, quality-ordered list of songs for each album we review, but doing so was almost pointless for this album. With the exception of the screechy "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 2," all of the songs are very good, working both individually as great tracks and together as a well woven coherent whole.
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots is a must-have for fans of concept albums, fans of songs about romantic sci-fi and the futuristic themes, and/or fans of melodic, light psychedelia with a pop flair.