Transmissions From The Satellite Heart by The Flaming Lips

1993's 'Transmissions From The Satellite Heart' was the sixth album from Oklahoma lunatics the Flaming Lips, but was their first to cross over to a bigger audience courtesy of alternative radio hit 'She Don't Use Jelly'. It's a whole heap of skewed psych-rock mayhem and documents the time when their singer didn't resemble an acid-fried Noel Edmonds. 

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Transmissions From The Satellite Heart by The Flaming Lips
2 reviews. Write a review for us »
8/10 Tommy WM 02 November 2020

It took six albums and a decade together as a band for The Flaming Lips to truly leave a mark on the mainstream. Their breakthrough came in the form of 'Transmissions From The Satellite Heart' and its lead single ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, a warped pop anthem which still has the power to produce singalongs in crowds of tens of thousands of people. There are elements in the record where you can hear the band are still finding their feet, but here they up their songcraft, home in the noise and weirdness, and revitalise their sound with a pair of fresh members, as multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd and guitarist Ronald Jones join the fold with their thumping drums and twisting melodies.

The album’s sound may come as a surprise to those who found their way into the Lips through the cosmic space pop of ‘The Soft Bulletin’ or the otherworldly sweet treats of ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’. ‘Transmissions’ sounds like a more focussed Ween, or The Butthole Surfers if they switched off the fuzz pedals. It kicks off proceedings with the foot-stomping opener ‘Turn It On’, a catchy indie rock track with hard-funk guitar hooks and powerful drums which cut right through the mix, ‘Chewin’ the Apple of Yer Eye’ features marching band drums and distant horns to blend the slanted and enchanted ramshackle indie of Pavement with the lo-fi psych folk of the Elephant Six collective and Big Star’s power pop balladry, bombastic rhythms meet clock chimes, acoustic strums, ridiculously over-the-top fantastical lyrics, and controlled feedback in ‘Superhumans’, Wayne Coyne leads a frolicking march and alluring cutesy chorus in ‘Be My Head’, and ‘Moth In An Incubator’ sounds like if a remote Southern US village picked the wrong mushrooms.

The reissue of ‘Transmissions’ highlights the commercial beginnings of a forward-thinking force in alternative and psychedelic music, a group who are too weird to be out-and-out-pop, but too good at writing a decent tune to be relegated to obscurity. The Lips are a group whose fans constantly discuss their favourite eras, as it’s so easy to pick apart their career and divide it up into the sounds, themes and production of respective records. ‘Transmissions’ falls into the category of their warped noise pop era which covers ‘In A Priest Driven Ambulance’, ‘Hit To Death In The Future Head’ and ‘Clouds Taste Metallic’, before they hit the big leagues of festival headlining success with glossy records like ‘The Soft Bulletin’ and ‘Yoshimi’. It’s a period which is slept on hugely, perhaps because it eschews the proggy anthemia and hits of later outings, but those who have not yet delved into this era will find be intrigued and infatuated with the Lips’ early skewed psych offerings.

9/10 Penrith Steve 28th October 2014

It is my belief that “Transmissions From The Satellite Heart” is the first great Flaming Lips album. Being a daft, lanky 19 year old when this came out, the silliness of “She Don’t Use Jelly” appealed greatly, and whilst it is somewhat of a novelty song, I still like it. There are far better songs on here though. “Turn It On” which opens the album is a fabulously simple and melodic anthem. “Pilot Can At The Queer Of God” is their own special brand of twisted space pop. “Oh My Pregnant Head” is a strange ballad with the refrain of “Labia in the sunlight” repeated in a not dissimilar way to “the sun machine is coming down and we’re going to have a party” on Bowie’s “Memory of a Free Festival”. The acoustic “Chewin’ The Apple Of Your Eye” is sung in a style fairly typical of Wayne Coyne’s stretched vocal with scratchy effect to make it sound like an old record being played. Anthemic space pop returns on “Superhumans” and “Be my Head” harks back to the “In A Priest Drive Ambulance” days. My favourite track is probably “Moth In The Incubator” which starts acoustically and builds to a chorus of “So embryonic it’s all right, I’ve been born before I’m getting used to it, brain dead is always how it ends” ending with a manic slide guitar. There is a cover on here too, “Plastic Jesus” which was sung by Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke”. “Slow Nerve Action” closes the album with big, dirty, stomping drums and a guitar riff that sounds like a fat worm trying to talk.



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