One of my most wanted albums for this last Record Store Day was The Soft Bulletin Companion by The Flaming Lips. This is a first-time vinyl pressing of a recording that was only issued on home-made CD-Rs by the band to industry insiders back around the time of the release of their landmark album The Soft Bulletin. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get a copy but it did turn out to be quite readily available. This is good news for you, Dear Readers, in case you decide to get this sweet compilation.
A few things on The Soft Bulletin Companion have been released before on the DVD Audio Disc format, as bonus outtakes on the 5.1 surround sound version of The Soft Bulletin (“1000 Ft. Hands,” “The Captain” and “Satellite Of You.”).
As much as I love that DVD Audio Disc, it is so great to finally have “The Captain” on vinyl. I fell in love with this song again a couple of years ago when the band issued a new video for it. It is one of those epic Flaming Lips songs that gets under your skin and into the deep recesses of your brain after a few listens. It is an earworm in the best sense of the word, especially the last half of the song.
There is some amazing material on The Soft Bulletin Companion such as the Stereo mix of “Okay, I Admit That I Really Don’t Understand” from Zaireeka, an album that was issued on four separate channels (one on each of four discs) designed to be played on four different stereos simultaneously. So for some who have not heard the Stereo mixes at all (there are versions circulating around the web if you poke around a bit), this has a haunting presence about it. The drum and bass hook is killer tied together by some wonderfully eerie vocal treatments this side of Radiohead around the time of OK Computer.
My copy of The Soft Bulletin Companion sounds generally excellent even though it is pressed on spiffy looking silver vinyl. The only time I heard any noise was in the run out groove at the end of the record on one side. I do have a friend who had a surface noise problem with one side of his copy of the album so I’m hoping his was just a one-off anomaly.
Good news for CD fans: this week The Soft Bulletin Companion is also being issued on regular compact disc, bringing the release almost full circle to its roots. The album hasn’t appeared in full on streaming services but there is one preview track (“Satellite of You”) on each of them in high resolution form. I suspect those will go live once the CD is released so as soon as it does I’ll be sure to update this review with those links.
The Soft Bulletin Companion is a fun album and very much a heady side show for appreciating The Soft Bulletin album. And keep in mind that there was a second volume of The Soft Bulletin Companion on CD-R (I have a copy of that one!) so maybe next year we’ll get that issued on vinyl. Fingers crossed.