After EPs, a vinyl-only release (including a collaboration with Chris Martin not here), an infamous-falling out with Erykah Badu over the video for "Everytime I see your face" and warm if not ecstatic reviews in the press here, at long last, comes the CD release of "The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends". While it does not come close to the genius of "Zaireeka", "the Soft Bulletin" or "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" it betters "At War With the Mystics" and it likely to appeal to many people much more than "Embryonic" (which I thought excellent).
It is remarkably cohesive given the range of collaborators (from Ke$ha to Neon Indian) and the passage of time over which the various tracks were recorded even if some of the tracks are frankly not up to much: the interplay between Ke$ha'a robotic vocals, the electronic sounds effect and guitar stomp on opening "2012 (You must be upgraded)" is initially arresting but does not reward repeated listening and the Nick Cave collaboration "You man, human" is unlikely to rival say, "The Mercy Seat" in the public's affection for the Gothic One.
Elsewhere, however, there are more than enough moments to justify the admission price. "Supermoon made me want to pee" and "That Ain't My Trip" recall the Can-isms of "Embryonic." "I'm Working at Nasa" is a spaghetti western set in space while the spirit of David Bowie is also present in "Ashes in the Air", which contains that fragile yet symphonic elegiac quality in which the Flaming Lips are unsurpassed, and "Is David Bowie dying?" a close cousin to "Approaching Mons Pavonis" from "Yoshimi" featuring Wayne Coyne's vocals at their most cracked, desperate and, all things considered, life-affirming.
For all the flaws the album is another episode on one of the most singular journeys in music and a testament to the Flaming Lips's febrile imagination, ability to embrace and improve themselves by other talents (see their wonderfully touching version of "Do You Realize" at the Hollwood Cemetry with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros") and continued quest to make music to make you laugh, cry, dance and think. Often at the same time.