Transmissions from the Satellite Heart

Band: The Flaming Lips
Album: Transmissions from the Satellite Heart
Best song: “Slow Nerve Action” and “She don’t Use Jelly” are classics.
Worst song: “Be My Head” isn’t amazing.

Beavis and Butthead was sort of a defining show in my youth. The show came out at a time when I fetishized the adolescence that I was going through, so having “role models” — not in any classical sense — like the two miscreants on MTV was perfect for myself.

The show hit a lot of high notes. They loved metal. I loved metal. They lived in what appeared to be a boring suburb. I lived in a boring suburb. They were the delightful id of my pre-teenage years and I’m glad they existed. As Seinfeld would feature later in my life, the show shined a light on the most base level of my 12-year-old mind. No, I didn’t want to see words on TV. If I wanted to read, I’d read. I’m watching TV so I don’t have to read. Yes, every video could use more hot chicks.

I’m not proud that my brain went to those places, but it did. Such is being a 12-year-old boy in the United States in 1993.

For a lot of people, adolescence is a complete disaster. I was not immune to this, of course. I was a hairy kid and went through puberty earlier than a lot of my peers. Of course, this didn’t mean I got big and strong or anything; it simply meant I became sweaty and hairy. I have grown, maybe, two inches since I was 13.

I’m 30 now.

I got made fun of a lot for growing strange sideburns, largely because I could not control my hair growth. I got made fun of for the mustache that so many awkward teenagers get. I’m certain I got made fun of for a million things. I got into a few fights in junior high, as I was an angry, sad kid. Depression will do that, I guess.

Eventually, I grew out of Beavis and Butthead. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel as though the show gave me a great deal. The show’s first promos and the short that inspired the show both featured Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” introducing me to the band.

Similarly, one of the non-metal videos that duo did not mock was “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Buoyed by the video’s appearance on the show, the song became the Lips’ first hit, putting Transmissions from the Satellite Heart onto the map. I was in a band that covered the song and have listened to the song hundreds of time.

The Flaming Lips put out one of my favorite albums back in 1999. The Soft Bulletin is a musing on modern life. The record is worthy of comparison to the great works of similar themes and Wayne Coyne’s ability to put that into words is shocking when seen against this album.

That isn’t to say that Transmissions is bad. It isn’t. It’s a perfectly nice album bookended by two excellent songs, with a great song in the middle. But, to compare it to what the Flaming Lips have become is a little strange to see.

On some level, this is growing up. Post-Transmissions, the band put out another good record, then a four-disc sound experiment that largely fell flat. Largely called a Butthole Surfers ripoff, the band turned into a large-scale place for nerds, indie folks and AAA listeners to get behind. Stripping themselves of their punk heritage — Coyne cut his hair, started dressing like a normal person, etc. — the band brought out theatrics. They went from being the annoying kid down the block to the lovable eccentric in the family.

The album has its highlights. Seeing the Lips perform “Slow Nerve Action” is one of my favorite live show experiences, as the song’s driving beat was doubled by a large-scale video of a heart beating. The band performed “She Don’t Use Jelly” on the same show, with a person in a bunny mascot suit, throwing confetti in the air.

It was magical. The album is lovely and a cool look into the band’s growth. Just as junior high was for me.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

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