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Jim Derogatis' Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips 

review by Zane Ewton

Staring at Sound is a pleasant little book that chronicles the career of the Flaming Lips. Many labels have been attached to the Lips in their over 20 year career but none more apparent that "hard-working band."

The book is a glossy read that really never equates to much more than a long magazine article. Maybe it is the author's background as a journalist or the simple fact that a quick internet search would dig up the articles and interviews that provided the basis for the book.

Needless to say, the writer never scratches the surface of the Flaming Lips. Their story goes beyond the cliché of sex, drugs and rock and roll, all though there is a little of that in there as well. The revolving line-up of musicians, out of control egos, the environment of alternative music in the eighties and nineties, and countless other factors could have fleshed the book out and gave it some depth.

Instead, we get a portrait of founding members Wayne Coyne as an oddly romantic and sentimental freak, the master of ceremonies and Michael Ivins as the shy guy with enormous hair and an interest n recording. The other musicians and hangers-on come and go without ever really impacting the story, apart from Stephen Drozd, whose heroin addiction and outstanding input within the band's music is treated with less emotion than a Hallmark commercial.

Therein lies the problem with this book; it is completely devoid of the passion, wistfulness, humor or any of the other hundreds of adjectives that can be used to describe the Flaming Lips music.

There is no connection with the band or any insight into much of anything. Staring at Sound shouldn't have been a book it should have been the cover story in a Rolling Stone.

For the casual fan, Staring at Sound explains the circumstances surrounding each Flaming Lips album, sometimes providing background into individual songs. Each chapter is broken up between albums, with the recording and subsequent tour comprising each chapter. Nothing revelatory can be found for the Flaming Lips faithful. If you are relatively new to the band, just check out the music, it is far more interesting than this white bread biography.

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Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips 

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