I freaking hate April Fools’ Day.
I spent all of last Tuesday bumbling around like Thom Yorke in a state fair funhouse. Generally I’m someone who can recognize humor when it’s aimed directly at me, but when it comes to April 1 pranks, I am utterly lost. I like to think that it’s because I’m too sophisticated for such tomfoolery, but really I’m just missing the “immediate skepticism” gene. It’s not like I believe in UFOs, lizard people, Sasquatch, or that wacky religion that worships Tom Cruise (NOTE: or something). I’m not a sucker-I just don’t understand the point of pranks. When new information is presented to me, my immediate instinct is to believe it. Because why would jokers lie?
Because they’re dirty liars, that’s why.
So, needless to say, finding reliable music news while I was writing my column two days ago was no easy task. In just half an hour, I had already scrapped a half-written column about Metallica’s upcoming Kate Bush tribute concert, became really excited about the announcement of an Arctic Monkeys / Tame Impala collaboration, and pre-ordered a copy of Wilco’s newest release, Yankee Doodle Foxtrot. That last one was described as a full album of “deconstructed children’s songs about patriotism,” and the album cover was a pink and yellow re-rendering of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with a child in an Uncle Sam costume poorly Photoshopped into the picture.
In my defense, who wouldn’t want to hear that?
Anyway, the point is that I got burned pretty bad. By the end of my search, I had more egg on my face than Thom Yorke after losing a state fair spoon-and-egg race. I could, however, at least take comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only one who had struggled. This became particularly evident upon discovering the massive-scale prank orchestrated by the Flaming Lips in partnership with the comedy website Funny or Die. If you were looking forward to the new Flaming Lips album, then you are not alone: between Pitchfork, The New York Times, The Guardian, Spin, and countless others, practically no one picked up on the fact that the band’s “immersive companion album” to Pink Floyd’sDark Side of the Moon was part of an elaborate spoof. The LP, titled called The Flaming Side of the Moon (which, retrospectively, one would have thought would be a tip-off to more people), was announced a few days ago and is available currently to stream online. In an impressive show of commitment, the album actually was engineered to sync up with Dark Side, and there’s a 43-minute long video of them recording it to prove that it wasn’t just manufactured.
To be fair, it blurs the definition of a “prank” if you actually create and release the ridiculous product you promised.
But the group’s commitment to this wretched holiday didn’t stop there. See, the whole matter actually started about a week ago when lead singer Wayne Coyne staged an interview with New York magazine in which he openly claimed to be “all in” to “sell out.” Then Funny or Die released a video of the band announcing that Flaming Lips had agreed to a Michael Bay-directed movie based on their most famous album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, for which they filmed a phony trailer. The band also claimed to be releasing its own line of products, including cereal, lip balm, and electronic cigarettes in a Funny or Die video called “The Flaming Lips Sell Out.” There’s also a pretty funny sketch starring Fred Armisen wherein the actor tries to get the band to branch out from their typical sound into other genres, i.e. krautrock, two-tone ska, and whatever the heck Coldplay counts as.
Part of the reason so many people fell for this is because of the band has a reputation for ridiculousness anyway. The Oklahoma rockers have also demonstrated a passion for Dark Side in the past (the Flaming Lips did a track-for-track remake in 2010), and they’ve experimented with the idea of “companion albums” several times before: Their 1997 albumZarieekaconsists of two CDs that must be played simultaneously for full effect. On a more critical note, it’s also not really surprising to see the Flaming Lips “sell out” because, after all, Coyne has been in several Virgin Mobile commercials lately … but that’s a complaint for a different column.
Next year, though, I’m not going to be fooled. I’m going to be determined: as determined as Thom Yorke throwing a beanbag at a state fair dunktank. And you know who is sitting in the dunk tank?