Fearless [1993]

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Equal parts punk and psychedelia, the Flaming Lips emerged from Oklahoma City as one of the most bracing bands of the late 1980's. The Fearless Freaks documents their rise from Butthole Surfers-imitating noisemakers to grand poobahs of orchestral pop masterpieces. Filmmaker Bradley Beesely had the good fortune of living in the same neighborhood as lead Lip Wayne Coyne, who quickly enlisted his buddy to document his band's many concerts and assorted exploits. The early footage is a riot, with tragic hair styles on proud display as the boys attempt to cover up their lack of natural talent with sheer volume. During one show, they even have a friend bring a motorcycle on stage, which is then miked for sound and revved throughout the performance, clearing the club with toxic levels of carbon monoxide. Great punk rock stuff. Interspersed among the live bits are interviews with the band's family and friends, revealing the often tragic circumstances of their childhoods and early career. By the time the film reaches the late '90s, Coyne's band has witnessed a number of personnel changes, most notably the introduction of drummer and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd. It's here that the Flaming Lips begin their ascent into greatness. Fueled by the alt-pop hit "She Don't Use Jelly," the band enters an era of intense experimentation, conducting a symphony for car stereos in a parking garage, releasing a 4-disc album meant to be played simultaneously, and embarking on the creation of their first masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. Sadly, Steven Drozd's demons keep pace with the band's success. In an incredibly heartbreaking scene, Drozd talks frankly about his addiction while preparing to shoot heroin. Fortunately, Drozd kicks his habit as the Lips enter the studio for their follow-up, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and the film ends with the band enjoying widespread acclaim as they deliver one extravagant show after another. There are some conspicuous absences in this tale, notably their weird and lucky break appearing on '80s teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 and their tour as openers and backing band for Beck. The bonus disc includes some cool outtakes and performances, but unfortunately none of the band's vibrant music videos. -- Ryan Boudinot

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