What's toying with Flaming lips frontman Wayne Coyne's emotions? The singer raves about a beloved plaything.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

”Do you realize/that everyone you know someday will die?” This is what passes for a pop hook in the world of the Flaming Lips, circa 2002. Such mournful currents run throughout the Oklahoma band’s recently released 10th album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. (SPOILER ALERT: Yoshimi triumphs.)

Still, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne’s shuddering tenor (he continues to rival Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch as a vocal ringer for Neil Young) and the group’s effortlessly lysergic atmospherics help keep Yoshimi’s mood more or less buoyant. And as the title suggests, Yoshimi maintains the blithe experimentation and pure weirdness that marked 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, which countless critics worshiped for its kid-style sense of wonder.

Coyne himself doesn’t need Flaming Lips tunes to experience that sort of uplift. Instead, he just takes a glance at his most treasured toy, a solar-powered trinket that was given to him in Tokyo by an employee of his band’s label in Japan. It has since joined the band on tour, perched on the dashboard of the Lips’ van. We asked Coyne, 41, to give us the scoop on why it’s his favorite thing.

”It’s this little happy guy called Hidamari No Tami. I think this means ‘happy humans sitting under the sun.’ It’s a nice, little, cute toy. He’s pink, like a lot of Japanese toys, and his head sort of bobs back and forth in the sun because of the solar panel. He’s sitting there with this sort of blissed-out smile on his face. That seems like such a pure, simple reason to be happy — you’re a human and you’re sitting in the sun. I think somewhere in there is the philosophy of what the Flaming Lips represent to [some fans]. We get a lot of that. It’s a good thing — I love that. I’m a fan of Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers and Pee-wee Herman, so when I see that sincerity in other people, I really like it.”

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
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