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OPINION: Flaming Lips, Doctor Scary get the ear

June 6, 2013
By MARK J. MILLER - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

This week I review a bunch of stuff, both national and local, including the Flaming Lips new album and a local musician known as Doctor Scary.

The Flaming Lips, "The Terror"

Ladies and gentleman, the Flaming Lips have finally left Earth.

It's not like that you couldn't see that coming for a cosmic mile - the Lips have been doing stranger and stranger things over the years, becoming even more eccentric as they age. And these guys aren't exactly young 'uns, either, as they are close to 50 or so and have been around for about 25 years.

I kind of like that. And I really like "The Terror," the band's new album, which is more modernly psychedelic than just about anything they've done.

Now, they have done some weird stuff the past few years, and maybe that's been the catalyst for "The Terror." My favorite Flaming Lips saga is how they created a song that lasted for 24 hours, put it on a jump drive and then encased that into a gummy-bear candy skull, then put it up for sale.

Why? Who the hell knows. All I know is I find that outrageously funny.

The band also recently released a cover of Pink Floyd's psych classic "Dark Side of the Moon" with some like-minded friends. It wasn't really all that good, but it was amusing. With "The Terror" it seems the band has been drawing a lot of inspiration from early Floyd, particularly the Syd Barrett years, as well as Barrett's own bizarre solo albums.

At any rate, "The Terror" isn't anything at all like the band's last outstanding major label release, "Embroyonic," which was chaotic and clearly drew from Miles Davis' mid-70s electric years. "The Terror" is all about stillness and using electronic beats and blats, throbs and ethereal vocals as well as odd percussion to create an otherworldy musical landscape. The result are songs that are strangely beautiful and sound more like a soundtrack to a spaceflight than anything else.

In fact, the songs are almost secondary to the vibe, which reminds me very much of David Bowie's ambient classic "Low" along with the German synth band Kraftwerk and early "alternative" noise bands such as Throbbing Gristle and early Public Image Limited, Johnny Rotten's band after the Sex Pistols broke up.

As much as I liked "The Terror" on CD, I decided to buy the vinyl, and that's really when the album became three-dimensional to my ears - a reverb-soaked mission to some other place, a place with infinite space and an alien landscape.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Flaming Lips are in orbit, and I highly approve. Be prepared for nothing like you've ever heard from a major label band. That's a good thing.

Scary Doctor, "Rebel Without Applause"

Scary Doctor, or Doctor Scary as he's sometimes referred to as, is the talented guitarist with the band Tongue 'n' Cheek, an '80s tribute band that plays here and there and gained a strong local cult following. To call the band a "tribute" band may not be exactly the correct term, as Tongue 'n' Cheek plays the music they live and breathe.

"Rebel Without Applause" finds the good doctor stepping out on his own on a six-song CD, impeccably produced by Mike Ofca at Innovation Studios in Steubenville.

I don't think there's any type of music Mike can't capture the zietgeist of, and with Scary's help writing all the songs, playing all the instruments except drums, "Rebel Without Applause" is a greasy album filed with music reminiscent of '80s Los Angeles-based rockers such as Poison and especially Motley Crue.

The album even contains an '80s-style "power ballad" in "What is Forever," while Scary shreds all over the disc with some pretty outstanding guitar solos. The doctor also is a man of a a thousand grooving sleazy rock riffs, all performed with confidence and a sheer affection for what he's doing.

The result is a fun trip for those tired of "Nu-metal" bands and those whose ears were glued to the glammy side of '80s rock radio. Rock on, Garth.

Also recently released by Sony Legacy are three albums featuring the beauties of pop trio Destiny's Child, including "The Very Best of Destiny's Child," "Love Songs" and "The Video Anthology" All three feature the pop divas doing their thing with modern beats, modern R&B production and a surprising amount of strong femininity. There's really little to say about the pop supergroup except they ruled radio with a female iron fist for years and still sound great in 2013. Long live Beyonce.

(Miller can be contacted at

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