The Flaming Lips – Fight Test (2003)

FrontCover1Fight Test is an EP by The Flaming Lips featuring the song of the same name, released on Warner Bros. Records in 2003. The single version of “Fight Test” was released on June 23, 2003, peaking at #28 in the UK Singles Chart. It is the third single to be picked from the album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

It is an enhanced CD, containing covers of Radiohead’s “Knives Out”, Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You out of My Head”, and Beck’s “The Golden Age.” In addition, the EP includes two original songs. The UK version was a normal CD single, which also featured some previously unreleased songs.

“Fight Test” is musically very similar to Cat Stevens’s 1970 song “Father and Son.” Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, is receiving royalties following a relatively non-contentious settlement. In an interview with The Guardian, front man Wayne Coyne stated

“I want to go on record for the first time and say that I really apologize for the whole thing. I really love Cat Stevens. I truly respect him as a great singer-songwriter. And now he wants his money. There was a time during the recording when we said, this has a similarity to ‘Father and Son’. Then we purposefully changed those bits. But I do regret not contacting his record company and asking their opinion. Maybe we could have gone 50–50. As it is, Cat Stevens is now getting 75 per cent of royalties from ‘Fight Test’, We could easily have changed the melody but we didn’t. I am really sorry that Cat Stevens thinks I’m purposefully plagiarising his work. I am ashamed. There is obviously a fine line between being inspired and stealing. But if anyone wanted to borrow part of a Flaming Lips song, I don’t think I’d bother pursuing it. I’ve got better things to do. Anyway, Cat Stevens is never going to make much money out of us.”

The opening of “Fight Test” (“The test begins…now”) was sampled from one of the sync tests from the Flaming Lips’ own Boombox Experiments. The song was also the theme song for the short-lived MTV cartoon 3 South. It was furthermore used in a season 2 episode of the long-running TV series Smallville. (by wikipedia)

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The Flaming Lips usually tend to use their B-sides and between-album releases to stretch musically, and the Fight Test EP — which gathers the B-sides from the two-part U.K. single for Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, plus some new live and previously unreleased material — is no exception. While it’s not as overtly innovative as EPs like Providing Needles for Your Balloons, Fight Test’s covers, remixes, and new songs offer more than might be expected, considering how soon it arrives after the release of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and how the Lips have been touring almost constantly since then. Their cover choices on the EP are particularly interesting, offering something of a critique on their place in pop music’s canon. Wayne Coyne is famously omnivorous in his musical tastes, once proclaiming in an NME interview that he was a fan of both Smog and Madonna; this mix of populism and experimentalism informs all of his band’s music, but the stunning reworking the Lips give Kylie Minogue’s electro-pop gem “Can’t Get You out of My Head” proves afresh that the group not only loves mainstream pop, but also loves to twist it to fit FlamingLips02their own gloriously askew purposes. Opening with the kind of sweeping strings, guitars, and timpani that one usually associates with spaghetti westerns instead of dancefloors, the song is transformed into an obsessive ballad via Coyne’s ghostly vocals and a bleak tempo. It’s a stark contrast to the robotic sexiness of Minogue’s version, but it isn’t done ironically — the Lips’ version of the song wouldn’t work as well as it does if the band didn’t respect the song as it was originally recorded. While they bring a theatrical grandeur to Kylie, their mostly faithful version of Radiohead’s “Knives Out” offers a little light at the end of that song’s paranoid tunnel vision. Likewise, their cover of tourmate and pal Beck’s “Golden Age” is as strummy, sparkling, and gracefully resigned as the Sea Change original, though the live setting and Coyne’s bleat of a voice pushes the Lips’ version even further into Neil Young territory. The EP stumbles slightly with the nine-minute Scott Hardkiss remix of “Do You Realize??,” which is pleasant enough but strips away much of the original’s poignancy and bloats the EP’s length to over half an hour; one suspects the Lips could’ve easily crafted a more interesting dance version of the song themselves. As for the rest of Fight Test, the title track remains great — and probably the most cheerful, anthemic song about losing someone close that you’ll ever hear. “The Strange Design of Conscience,” the only new studio track here, is quieter and more down to earth than Yoshimi, but is just as hypnotic and shares some of that album’s themes of remaining strong and sympathetic in the face of hard times. And finally, the cute, country-tinged “Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber-Optic Jesus You Gave Me)” doesn’t quite live up to its mind-boggling title, but does feature some fun guitar work and also reaffirms that the silly sense of humor that brought the Flaming Lips into the spotlight in the first place with songs like “She Don’t Use Jelly” might be a little more refined, but is still very much a part of their sound. While this isn’t as complete a portrait of the band’s music as Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots — and, of course, it’s not meant to be — the Fight Test EP does offer a rawer, more spontaneous version of their sound that makes for a nice balance with their more polished work. (by Heather Phares)

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Personnel:
Wayne Coyne (guitar, vocals)
Steven Drozd (guitar, keyboards, electronics, drums, vocals)
Michael Ivins (bass, keyboards, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Fight Test (Coyne/Drozd/Ivins/Fridmann) 4.08
02. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (Recorded live on 5 August 2002 at KEXP, Seattle) (  (Dennis/Davis) 4.06
03. The Golden Age (Recorded live on 29 August 2002 at the CD101 “Big Room”, Columbus, Ohio) (Hansen) 3.12
04. Knives Out” (Recorded on 18 July 2002; broadcast 8 August 2002 on Morning Becomes Eclectic, KCRW (Los Angeles)) (Yorke, J.Greenwood/O’Brien/Selway/C.Greenwood) 4.21
05. Do You Realize?? (Scott Hardkiss Floating in Space Mix) (Coyne/Drozd/Ivins/Fridmann) 9.06
06. The Strange Design Of Conscience (Coyne/Drozd) 4.31
07. Thank You Jack White (for the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me) (Coyne/Drozd)   3.40

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