Fearless Freaks: The Flaming Lips are Changing the World
J. Gordon
10/11/2006 5:55:24 PM

From their austere beginnings in the 1980s as a bunch of Okie imitators of the Butthole Surfers, to Maestros of Orchestral Psychedelics, The Fearless Freaks [Shout Factory] is an honest and heart-felt documentary of the Flaming Lips history from start to present day. Close friend of the Lips, filmmaker Bradley Beesely takes us through concerts, videos and interviews, interspersed with home movie footage. You’ll see confessions of high volume to compensate for low-talent, toxic levels of carbon monoxide, and the tragic effects of drug use on family and band members.

The film follows the band through a number of personnel changes, settling upon drummer and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd in the 90s. Drozd appears to have been the missing ingredient that takes the Lips from obscurity to greatness.

Fueled by their first alt-pop radio hit "She Don't Use Jelly," the band becomes known for their intense experimentation; conducting a symphony for car stereos in a parking garage, releasing a 4-disc album meant to be played simultaneously, and their first masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. However Drozd's drug abuse escalates and in a frank and disturbing scene, he is even filmed as he prepares to shoot heroin. Fortunately, Drozd kicks his habit as the Lips enter the studio for their critically acclaimed masterpiece, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

If you've been to a Flaming Lips show in the past few years, you might have witnessed lead singer Wayne Coyne bleeding fake blood all over his face and onto his trademark khaki suit. One of the least momentous, yet most revealing moments in this film is that Coyne washes his suits himself, in his modest Oklahoma City bathtub (pre-Halloween hint: soak in cold water so that fake blood doesn't set). It's a telling scene because it reveals his intense drive to work through all details of a Flaming Lips show. There is virtually no ego here. He still sound-checks. He still mows his own lawn. Still hangs with the neighborhood kids in the neighborhood he grew up in. Still helps his mom out with her house. It seems his only extravagance is the Sci-Fi Christmas movie he’s producing and directing in his backyard.

The Fearless Freaks is a courageously honest film about a band with a truth that is gritty, unpolished, raw, and inspiring. The Flaming Lips ultimately owe their success to their own daring imagination, childlike wonder, goodness and open-heartedness, which bubbles over in almost all their recent music (The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, most particularly.) Through the mediums of Santa Claus, Martians, teenage bloodsports and The White Stripes, The Fearless Freaks is a sensational and enlightening documentation of the voyage of The Flaming Lips.

This 2-DVD set also features outtakes, deleted scenes, crazy fans and performances on the bonus disc, but unfortunately none of the band's vibrant music videos. Only rarely do ‘rockumentary’ DVDs leave you with a complete feeling at the end, like you got your money's worth. It is difficult to watch this DVD without wanting to jump up, go out and change the world. But the really cool thing is, the Flaming Lips have already started the ball rolling.

[Not rated]


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