Phish Halloween 2013: The Case for _Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots_

Jay Cullis on October 16, 2013

Our Phish Halloween series continues with another cover possibility for the Atlantic City run later this month. This time, we’ll take a look at The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Be sure to check out the previous installments where we discussed Bob Seger’s Nine Tonight, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

We all know what happened on stage at Sugarbush back in 1994 when a comet crashed into Jupiter.

Now, almost 20 years later another comet is diving through our solar system and Phish is embarking on a tremendously anticipated Fall tour. Coincidence? Maybe not, but it’s a good reason for Phish to tackle the most intimate and cosmic album of the early 21st century. It’s time for a “modern” album, and The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is perfect.

Consider the whole package: It’s a Bush-era trip through feel-good anthems and paranoid funk — an album released just prior to the onset of the tumultuous “2.0 era.”

At it’s most melodic and blissful it’s as gorgeous as any great “Reba” jam. And it descends into songs as depth-plumbingly dark as anything “Ghost” has ever produced. It’s tight and succinct musically, while painting broad lyrical brushstrokes that can be interpreted in a million different ways. We are Yoshimi. We are the pink robots learning how to love. Should we fight? Should we defend? Should we sit back and watch the world spin by or make sure we’re living it fully? It’s Phishy Philosophy 101.

Highlights would abound. The opening couplet of “Fight Test” rolling into the sinister bass grooves of “One More Robot” would set the Boardwalk Hall ablaze. The floating comedown of “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” could open up into a something spacious and grandiose before finally crashing into the album’s sucker-punching third act.

As the clock ticks down on late October and the much anticipated Comet ISON plunges toward the sun — with millions of astronomers on the edges of their seats about what kind of sky display will occur in the dawn hours of early November — Phish would crash into “Do You Realize?” This heart-rending bit of personal apocalypse would give us all a chance to “let ’em know you realize that life goes fast,” and that “it’s hard to make the good things last.”

We know: We’re Phish fans.

Why They Might Play It:

With lyrics like “I don’t know how a man decides what’s right for his own life,” this is the perfect album for Trey. The fuzzy bass lines are tailored for Mike, especially considering his increased use of the meatball pedal over the summer. Can you imagine Fishman tackling the pseudo-techno drumlines? And there’d be plenty of Phishy weirdness during the fight scene song — the perfect moment for Trey to take to the kit and for the vacuum to simulate Yoshimi’s war cries.

Why They Might Not Play It:

Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne sings in an impossibly high register. Mike would likely have to tackle most of the lyric duties, and with his bass duties in full effect that might be technically difficult. Page would need eight arms to recreate the washes of synthetic background noise.

Still, this is Phish we’re talking about. Listening to this album about how anything is possible, I’m ready to believe.