The Flaming Lips: Zaireeka (1997)

While I'm basing these posts entirely on the music in my collection, I have to admit I do not own, and have never heard, Zaireeka in its official format as intended by the band.  The legendary experimental album from the Lips is a 4-LP (or 4-CD) box, with each disc containing the same songs in the same order, but with different components of the song -- the discs are intended to be played on 4 turntables/stereos simultaneously, recognizing that even with 4 friends in the room all hitting "play" at the same time, there is going to be some timing differential, leading to a varied and ultimately disorienting experience.

Now, I never had the patience to actually try this out.  Rather, I have a bootleg copy of the "Defeating The Purpose" mix, which has the 4 cd's burned to a single disc, the audio from each perfectly synchronized.  But even without the full 4-cd treatment, it's a fantastic, strange, and at times disorienting experience (particularly with headphones).  Perhaps not quite as flat-out musically brilliant as the follow-up, 1999's The Soft Bulletin, but there are some tremendous songs here, as well as an array of interesting sonic explorations, a sort of transitional album between the guitar-based indie rock of the band's prior work and the more prog-like art rock of later work.  That this remains unavailable to most fans (aside from a couple tracks that have come out on various compilations) is a real shame, as it's one of the underappreciated masterpieces in the Flaming Lips' brilliant catalogue.

The album opens with one of my favorite, lesser-known Lips tracks, a barrage of drums and a repeated bass riff, the song title "Okay I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand" repeated over and over, and sound effects bouncing around the speakers, the sort of thing I'm sure would be a delirious mindfuck with 4 CDs playing but is nonetheless hypnotic and infectious in basic stereo.  The follow-up, "Riding To Work In The Year 2525," is another highlight, a moody opus that signals where they'd head with Soft Bulletin, and "Thirty-Five Thousand Feet Of Despair" and "The Train Runs Over..." are similarly tuneful and relatively straightforward.  But there's also the odd instrumental "March of the Rotten Vegetables" and sprawling epic "A Machine In India," both far more challenging, not to mention the literally unlistenable "How Will We Know," a brief tune that would be quite pleasant but for the embedded high-pitched sonic whine which the band included presumably to fuck with listeners.

The album closes with another personal fave, "The Big Ol' Bug Is The New Baby Now," a spoken word story (albeit with some messing around with the pitch) about some dogs' odd fixation with certain toys, culminating in a "Hey Jude"-like refrain of the title to glorious effect.  It's wonderfully weird.

In addition to the bootleg single-disc recording, some fans also put together a bootleg DVD creating videos for each of the album's songs which is pretty amazing.

It would be great to see this get an official single-disc reissue, as the songs are great (and my version is pretty distorted in spots, though I don't know how much of the noise is part of the original recording); plus, there are some excellent contemporaneous b-sides that would work nicely woven into the album (as I did in creating my own personal version).

Here's that amazing fan-made video for "Ok I'll Admit..." (drawn largely from Altered States):
Here's an audio rip of the complete album (all 4 LPs synchronized):
And here's another one of those creepy DVD fan videos, for "The Big Ol' Bug...":

The album itself doesn't stream, but here are the songs available elsewhere that someone put into a Spotify playlist: