Suffering from what he described on Sound Opinions as the “standard post-SXSW cold,” Chicago Sun-Times pop critic Jim DeRogatis reported on Friday that The Flaming Lips would be breaking from their traditional festival set by having fans vote on their favorite Lips songs to be played as the band headlined the Friday night performances of Pitchfork Music Festival 2009. DeRogatis, never one to shy away from bashing a band no matter how popular, also threw in some digs at the band’s recent commercial licensing and feuding with the Arcade Fire .
Naturally, when the band backtracked on its original plan of fan-requested songs, DeRogatis, a self-described “veteran Flaming Lips fan,” sounded off his own opinions on why the backtracking was frustrating and a disservice to experienced Lips fans:
Hey, Wayne: You guys have been playing more or less the same set for almost a decade now; a few new songs get added, one older song gets dropped in per night, and maybe a cover, but mostly we get a lot of eye candy, with very few if any real musical surprises. How is this major Chicago festival appearance going to be any different than the Lollapalooza show a few years ago, or any of a dozen recent Lips shows your fans may have caught in these parts? What's the matter, buddy: Afraid to deviate from the standard set list, stretch out as in the old days, and either succeed brilliantly or fail nobly? Don't you think the fans at an eclectic, diverse and independent festival in one of the cities that has always been among the band's strongest bases of support deserve and would accept something a little left of center--something different and special? Or is this just another paycheck like all the other big corporate festivals and the Kraft salad dressing commercials?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah... um, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Harsh words, sure to draw the ire of the same group of music readers who lauded Ryan Adams’ nasty voicemail message to DeRogatis. Keep in mind however, that DeRogatis has based his career on being honest to himself regardless of what the overwhelming popular opinions of the time have been. In many cases, such as his controversial firing from Rolling Stone over his negative review Hootie and the Blowfish in 1996, he has ultimately been validated in his willingness to take down massively popular bands.
This is a rare occaision where DeRogatis is bashing a band he actually likes, and a band that, in all honesty, has gotten probably more of a free pass this decade than they’ve deserved. Since 1999’s The Soft Bulletin , The Flaming Lips have released one good album in Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots , where one of the best songs lost them a lawsuit to Cat Stevens in the height of the Bush era, and another one, At War With the Mystics , that was released to a collective shrug three years ago. It’s been nothing but soundtracks, commercials and trippy Christmas movies for The Flaming Lips since.