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Shout Factory presents
The Fearless Freaks (2005)

"We're just normal guys trying to make interesting music."
- Wayne Coyne

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: May 17, 2005

Stars: Wayne Coyne, Stephen Drozd, Michael Ivins
Other Stars: Juliette Lewis, Liz Phair, Jack White, Jonathan Donahue, Mark Coyne, Kliph T. Scurlock
Director: Bradley Beasley

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains language, drug use, and brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:42m:59s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 826663263497
Genre: alternative


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+B+ A-

DVD Review

Filmed in black and white, the image of the Flaming Lips' Stephen Drozd preparing to shoot up heroin feels surprisingly commonplace for the talented musician. While arranging the needle and drugs, Drozd discusses his lengthy troubles with drugs and the strains it placed on personal relationships. The fact that he allows filmmaker Bradley Beasley (Okie Noodling) to film this activity reveals his acceptance of the drug addiction, which is sad for such a skilled artist. However, this intimate environment allowed Beasley to capture the essence of the Flaming Lips without any false trappings. Viewing this moment makes Drozd's eventual kicking of his drug habit more powerful because of our close experience with his difficulties.

Compiled from more than 400 hours of footage, The Fearless Freaks chronicles the career of the Flaming Lips—one of the most intriguing acts currently playing in music today. Instead of providing a more straightforward look at each album and the band's progression, Beasley attempts to explore their personalities and family backgrounds. The historical aspects are a bit sloppy and less-structured, but the apparently unlimited access to the current and former band members leads to a more effective documentary. Singer Wayne Coyne strolls through his lower-class neighborhood in Oklahoma City and presents his surprisingly modest home. Shots of him mowing the lawn and working on the house with his family depict him as a surprisingly average guy away from the spotlight.

"You know I've never been a fan of alternative music, but those guys rocked the house!" - Steve Sanders (Ian Zierling) raving about the Flaming Lips on Beverly Hills 90210

The Flaming Lips have enjoyed one of the more peculiar music careers of the past few decades, including an odd appearance on a generally square popular Fox television series. For the uninitiated, they currently comprise singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne, bassist Michael Ivins, multi-instrumentalist Stephen Drozd, and the recently added drummer Kliph T. Scurlock. Former members include Mercury Rev frontman Jonathan Donahue and Wayne's brother Mark, the original singer in the early days. The Flaming Lips originated as an extremely rough noise band and slowly began to build a devoted cult following. Amazingly, the single She Don't Use Jelly became a huge crossover hit in 1993 and helped to make the album Transmissions from the Satellite Heart a big seller. In the late ‘90s, they moved further into experimental territory with Zaireeka—a four-disc box set designed to be played simultaneously on four separate stereos. Although they'd generated impressive music, nothing in the band's past could prepare listeners for the stunning releases The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. These wonderful albums received both critical and popular acclaim and shot the band into a new stratosphere of success.

Considering the rampant acclaim, I would expect the Flaming Lips to posture at least a bit regarding their importance as rock icons. Instead, they rarely even discuss the trappings of becoming major stars. Coyne seems more at home discussing his 11 years working at the local Long John Silver's, a job that he loved. One of the film's most enjoyable moments involves Coyne recreating a gun robbery at the now Vietnamese restaurant with two kids. This silly moment presents the child-like whimsy that permeates the band's current live shows and music across the years. Beasley also focuses on the guys' families, who have faced their own share of difficulties over the years. Drozd's brother spent 11 years in prison for grand theft auto, and his saxophone-playing father still frets about not making in big in the music business. One of Coyne's brothers spends his days doing drugs and dodging the law for minor offenses. The home-video footage of the large Coyne family as kids is especially effective and helps this film to overcome the typical rock biography conventions.

With The Fearless Freaks, Bradley Beasley takes a possibly one-note subject and crafts a whimsical look at a compelling group of artists. The film moves in odd fashion without a tight structure, but this free-flowing manner perfectly evokes the Flaming Lips' style. Another highlight is a behind-the-scenes look at Christmas on Mars, Coyne's strange film that has been in the works for many years. Starring the band, their family, and such actor friends as Adam Goldberg and Christina Ricci, this movie still has yet to be released but promises a peculiar experience. It represents yet another example of the Flaming Lips' movement well apart from the typical rock mold, which continues to draw new fans to their camp every year.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Fearless Freaks contains a wide array of footage of extremely varying levels of quality, but the overall result is successful. Much of Beasley's Oklahoma sequences exhibit a naturalistic quality that works perfectly in contrast to the Flaming Lips' flashy live shows. The black and white footage remains pretty grainy, but that style works for the story, especially during Drodz's drug scene. This widescreen anamorphic transfer helps to effectively present this top-notch documentary.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The presence of numerous Flaming Lips' songs dominates the audio of this feature, and the 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track nicely conveys their diverse music. The sounds are powerful and spring well from the front speakers in clear fashion. It's unfortunate that a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer is not available, but this fact is understandable given the limited budget and divergence in audio quality. The sound flows seamlessly between different eras and offers a solid presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins, Stephen Drozd, Scott Coyne, and Bradley Beasley
Packaging: unknown double keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes (6)
  2. Live Clips (5)
  3. Photo Slide Show
Extras Review: The Fearless Freaks includes an impressive collection of extras that nicely complement the entertaining documentary. Disc One offers a feature-length commentary with director Bradley Beasley and the Flaming Lips members. Wayne Coyne dominates the enjoyable conversation, which rarely comments directly on individual scenes. Instead, they convey a wide array of anecdotes concerning their career and younger lives. Few quiet moments exists within this lively discussion that is fun throughout the movie. It's obvious from this conversation that the band members remain friends and still get along very well today.

Disc Two contains more than an hour of bonus footage comprised of deleted scenes, outtakes, and live clips. The four deleted scenes run for about eight minutes and include several extended moments from the original film. The most interesting sequence involves Wayne discussing his childhood with his brothers, with more home-movie footage playing on the screen. The six outtakes last for about 29 minutes and should provide a welcome bonus for devoted fans. The most noteworthy segments include an appearance from Chan Marshall of Cat Power at Austin City Limits and 10 minutes of footage during the Clouds Tastes Metallic sessions. The six live clips range between 1988 (One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning) and 1995 (Rainin' Babies). It's disappointing that the footage omits the more-recent concerts, which have grown crazier each year. The final extra is a photo slide show, which runs for a surprisingly long 20 minutes.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

I attended my only Flaming Lips' concert in the summer of 2000 and enjoyed their clever mix of visual flair and attractive soundscapes. Their stage show has grown increasingly complicated and over-the-top in recent years, but they continue to craft quirky, original music. The Fearless Freaks wonderfully explores the band's history and provides an intimate look at their engaging personalities.

 


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