The Flaming Lips

The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg

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Nothing proves a band's ambitions, or probes its emotions (or both) quite like a concept album. So, after adding guitarist Jonathan Donahue and enlisting producer Dave Fridmann, the Flaming Lips focused on Wayne Coyne's ongoing quest for metaphysical enlightenment to record their first great album, In a Priest Driven Ambulance. The contributions of Donahue and Fridmann were immediately apparent, the duo appearing simultaneously as supremely fitting voices to frame Coyne's brilliantly shambling lyrics and sun-scorched delivery. The songs improved as well, ranging from the freak-out epic "Unconsciously Screamin'" to the pummeling "God Walks Among Us Now" to a late-night acoustic ballad like "There You Are," and, for the closer, an irony-free cover of the optimist's anthem "(What A) Wonderful World." The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg, a two-disc set of Flaming Lips recordings from 1989 to 1991, reissues the complete In a Priest Driven Ambulance and adds (in effect) 23 bonus tracks -- comprising B-sides (from the singles "Drug Machine" and "Unconsciously Screamin'") plus a collection of four-track demos often bootlegged as The Mushroom Tapes. Of the extra material, the B-sides are best, especially a pair of covers: one of the Sonics' sullen garage nugget "Strychnine" and the other of Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." Most of the demos add little to the released versions, one exception being a nice new guitar line on a version of "Unconsciously Screamin'." The demos of previously unreleased songs fare a little better, including the bizarre, stream-of-consciousness jams "God's a Wheeler Dealer" and "Agonizing," with both Coyne (on vocals) and Donahue (on guitar) apparently improvising their lines to hilarious effect. Elsewhere, "I Want to Kill My Brother; The Cymbal Head" begins with some furious strumming (straight out of the Who's "Pinball Wizard"), but never really becomes a song. As long as listeners never succumb to exhaustion from working their way through extra material that more than triples the running time of the original LP, The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg ably demonstrates the genesis of the Flaming Lips as rock & roll saviors.

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