I love the band, The Flaming Lips. For me, they are the right mixture of musical talent, innovation, intelligence, irreverence, oddball antics, and artistic abandon. My favourite album of theirs, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, is a nearly operatic collection of songs following a superhero-ninja-like heroine, Yoshimi, who saves the world from a robot invasion while at the same time falling in love with one of those robots who learns to feel. As I said, oddball.
The other day I was in my car listening to another of The Flaming Lip’s albums, The Soft Bulletin. As I was listening, I had a realization: Bulletin is better than Yoshimi. I don’t pretend to be a musical intellectual, but I could tell that the song structures, lyrics, production, just about everything were better on Bullet than Yoshimi. I was devastated. As ridiculous as it may sound, I needed Yoshimi to be the superior record.
Trying to adjust how I perceived these albums was incredibly difficult. I had to actually think about why it hurt my brain. I came up with two reasons for my struggle:
First: I have a deep emotional connection to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The album came out in the summer of 2002. At that time in my life I was in my third year of university, I was getting married, and I was still having a lot of fun driving around in cars with friends; in general, it was a great time. Smack dab in the middle of this, my friend introduced me to The Flaming Lips through Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. I listened to it non-stop for months: singing at the top of my lungs in the car with friends, hanging out in grungy basements, snuggling with my new wife. Every song on the album is like a smell that triggers a memory, or maybe just the whiff of a memory.
Second: I simply heard Yoshimi first. The Soft Bulletin came out three years prior in 1999. I didn’t pay attention to it at the time and when I did give it a listen, I remember thinking, “That was pretty good but let me hear Yoshimi again.”
I once had an argument with a friend about bell peppers. He was convinced that green and red peppers were completely different plants. I tried repeatedly to explain to him that green peppers were simply unripe red peppers but he wouldn’t hear of it. He had been told at some point, by someone that they were different. Trying to convince him that that initial piece of information was incorrect was nearly impossible. As we argued he became more emotionally invested with the position because he didn’t want to be wrong. He dug his heels in more and the argument became more personal. Even when I printed off an article proving I was right and slapped it down in front of him (with no small amount of gloating), he gave a half-hearted, “I’m still not convinced.”
The examples of these albums and peppers are ridiculous and admittedly inconsequential but they point to a larger problem with our little brains. Once we have been given information, it is hard to shake it. Once we are emotionally connected to the information, it is nearly impossible to change our minds; assuming of course that we would want to change.
I can’t give up on Yoshimi. It will always be my favourite Flaming Lips record even though I know it is inferior. The truth is I don’t want to change my mind. I like it the way it is.
If you plumb the depths of your mind, what kind of beliefs do you hold dear because they were given to you first? Are there things which you just can’t let go because you are emotionally invested in them? What would it cost you to let them go?