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United Kingdom 2005
Directed by
Bradley Beesley
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
5 stars

The Fearless Freaks - The Wondrously Improbable Story Of The Flaming Lips

Synopsis; The lives and musical careers of Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins, collectively known as The Flaming Lips, probably one of America's finest musical exports.

Director Bradley Beesley, band leader Wayne Coyne's art school neighbour, was given unlimited access to the band for almost 15 years. Following the highs and lows, the heartaches and the tragedies he has put together an enthralling look into their lives and careers. Somehow, against the odds, the self-proclaimed hillbilly punk version of The Who have become one of the rock world's most engaging and much loved acts.

The documentary follows them from their early career as atonal punks through to their guest appearance on Beverly Hills 90210, and their first hit single, well into their career with She Don't Use Jelly. It's quite astonishing that a group with barely a hit to their name managed to persuade Warner Brothers to finance Zaireeka, a four album set that could only be listened to on four separate stereos playing at the same time. The fact that they toured the album conducting an orchestra of boom boxes during their car park experiments is even stranger.

The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots both brought the band critical acclaim but their modern day concerts featuring giant dancing inflatable suns, people dancing on stage dressed in furry animal costumes, glitter cannons, singing nun hand puppets and blood capsules have become the stuff of legend.

Steven Drozd, an ex-heroin addict gives a shockingly detailed account of his battles and the band's tough love approach in trying to make him stop. A musical genius and multi-instrumentalist, it is distressing to hear him discuss his addiction whilst he graphically shoots up in front of the camera. It's a brave move on Beelsey's part to include the footage but it gives the band an even more human side, as does footage of front man Coyne dealing with his father's death. The shots of Coyne helping the roadies set up the band's stage set and adjust the stage lighting just makes you love him and the band still more.

In these days of plastic pop prima donnas it's not so amazing that the strangest and most beguiling band working today are also the most human. This record of their activities is a joy from beginning to end and a must for anyone with an interest in vibrant and daring music. This reviewer may be slightly biased having seen the band on numerous occasions but The Fearless Freaks is for me a five star triumph.




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