The Flaming Lips

The Spark That Bled

Song Review by

Like a dazed dream, or accidental bump on the head, comes another strange yet fascinating hallucinatory mini-epic from the Flaming Lips' exploratory recording The Soft Bulletin. A dense piece of quirky chamber pop, spiked with a small dose of prog rock inspiration, comprises this oddly endearing six-minute recording. "The Spark That Bled" opens to softly twisting guitars and tittering percussion like some mechanical insects while singer Wayne Coyne fights to regain consciousness after sustained a mysterious head injury, "I accidentally touched my head and noticed that I had been bleeding/For how long I didn't know/What was this, I thought, that struck me?/What kind of weapons have they got?/The softest bullet ever shot...." From here the track seems to follow Coyne's wandering mind into the kind of revelatory declarations that are either chemically inspired or the result of an unidentified trauma to the brain. The music gracefully begins to flow into a more heavily percussive instrumental section, a vaguely jungle atmosphere coming to the fore with the jazzy orchestration of vibraphone and congas supporting syncopated string melodies. These sections are interjected by repeated breakdowns. Here, Coyne's voice bears a striking resemblance to Jon Anderson of '70s prog rock forefather Yes, declaring in high prepubescent tones some kind of unspecified epiphany, "I stood up and I said 'Yeah!'/I stood up and I said 'Hey! Yeah!'," with an odd, revelatory calm against grandly descending chords. Deep into the song, the arrangement takes an unexpected, yet not surprising, left turn into a stripped-down, choppy rock section of slithering clean guitars and popping bass and drums that is meant to symbolize a burst of optimism, Coyne singing, "And it seemed to cause a chain reaction/It had momentum, it was gainin' traction/It was all the rage, it was all the fashion...." But soon listeners are brought back to sobering reality as the track reaches a close. The delusional joyride is over almost as quickly as it had begun. Against a bed of somber horns, Coyne is brought back to earth and his senses as he suddenly remembers his physical injury, "'Cause in reality there was no reaction/I accidentally touched my head and noticed that I was bleeding/For how long I didn't know."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Soft Bulletin 1999 Warner Bros. 5:55