Like many of us here in the UK I only discovered the multifaceted joys of The Flaming Lips after they had released the glorious, world-beating, The Soft Bulletin. Being the curious sort I did the appropriate research into their history and felt emboldened to explore their back-catalogue (well the other albums they had released on Warner Brothers at least). The most obvious starting place was Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, it being the album which housed their biggest hit previous to them breaking as an truly international act.
For those of us who are used to The Flaming Lips being lush, structured and just a little bit orchestral, the raw, fizzing guitar sound of Transmissions from the Satellite Heart can come as a bit of a shock. Wayne Coyne’s vocals aren’t quite as fragile and despite the weirdness The Flaming Lips are undoubtedly a guitar band, with Ronald Jones being a vital element in the creative process.
After the initial shock there is much to appreciate and enjoy here, with “Turn it On”, “Moth in the Incubator” and “Slow Nerve Action” particularly standing out as highlights of 90s American alt-rock. “She Don’t Use Jelly” was the big(ish) hit that got them played on American ‘modern rock’ radio and MTV, but that was more by luck than design, yet it remains one of the band’s great pop songs and a highlight of many Flaming Lip’s gigs since. Listening to Transmissions from the Satellite Heart now, it’s obvious that even the broad-canvas of alt-rock wasn’t going to big enough for the Flaming Lip’s ambitions and capabilities forever. Be it the crackling strummed intro to “Chewin’ the Apple of Your Eye”, or the absurdly brilliant singalong of “Be My Head”, there’s a joy and energy infused throughout this fine album that you’d struggle to find anywhere else.