on 30 July 2012
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.
on 24 December 2012
First of all, this CD sounds like a proper Flaming lips album, not just Wayne Coyne fannying about for 60 minutes.
Interestingly, I was expecting a Frank Sinatra type duet record, but what you are presented with is a much more cohesive, flowing piece of music.
Admittedly this album is closer to Embryonic, than Yoshimi or the Soft Bulletin, so if you're a fan of those latter records, you might want to save your pennies.
Another fascinating listen by Master Coyne (even the Yoko Ono collaboration sounds ok), but I do think the time is right for a more commercial record, for the sake of diversity of course.
You have to wonder. What exactly is going on in Flaming Lips world?
2011 saw a myraid of hard-to-get, hard-to-afford, and often hard-to-enjoy, fetished releases. A 24 hour song wrapped inside a $3,000 jellied lifesize skull. A Live album inside a $200 jellied skull. A 6 hour "EP" inside a stroboscopic device. The $150 Gummy Song Brain. The $30 USB Jelly Foetus. And, not forgetting, coloured vinyl collaboration 12" EP's with Yoko Ono, Prefuse 73, Lightning Bolt, Neon Indian, and so on. And here is the latest one : a double, coloured splatter vinyl LP with no artwork, 9,500 released in US retail shops only on Record Store Day, and in a limited edition of 500 on their website (the latter of which sold out in less than an hour).
Has being a Flaming Lips fan ever been quite so difficult? At last this has been released on an accessable, non-limited format.
Then again, back in 1995, their CD singles came in fake honeycomb sleeves. The 2008 film "Christmas On Mars" came with a box of popcorn -which is still, no doubt inedibly, sealed in my record museum at the back of the house.
You might then be forgiven for thinking that,l since these records are so absurdly limited and expensive, that they may be justified with the excuse of "Any old rubbish" will do. Their studio output in 2011 totalled 33 hours and 9 separate fetish objects, as well as an insane amount of highly sugared sweets, that delivered music on every format apart from cassette.
You might also be forgiven that, given their dalliance with mainstream pop success was shattered irrevocably to pieces by 2009's weird, largely improvised, free-form jazz fest "Embryonic" - and 2010's bonkers recreation of "Dark Side Of The Moon" - that the Flaming Lips simply don't care about being accessable. It's a fallacy to think they ever did. It took them 20 years to have more than one hit. It just so happened that their world collided with the pop mainstream and high street stores for a fraction of a decade before they sheared off into their own universe. Again, as ever, following their own muse, which I suppose you must admire, or at least, respect.
The quality of what is in here is betrayed by the absurd, and limited, legitimate ways in which this album could be experienced, until this final, widespread release.
Largely made of colloborations with guest musicians, vocalists, and friends - including Nick Cave - "The Flaming Lips! With Heady Fwends" is the most accessable, pop, fun thing they've done since 2006. Starting with Ke$ha's guest vocal over a gonzoid full on freakout remix of The Stooges "1969", entitled "2012", it owes a debt to weirdness - and The Weirdness - the size of Greece. By the time they get to "Children of The Moon", another, brilliant, silly, song feature Tame Impala, I'm sold.
Sure, the release mechanisms for the recent Flaming Lips output is appalling, elitest and borderline abusive of the fan that isn't both lucky, and stinking rich, we still have MP3's, and best of all, we have these great, stupid songs. As was once said of Sonic Yoof, "Clever People Playing Stupid Music" is the modus operandi here, and this record is made of 13 pieces, no slabs, of immense, fat grooves, immaculately dirty fuzz geetar, and Wayne Coyne and friends talking weird, transcendental nonsense. Imagine, if you will, that Pink Floyd moved from something as masterful as "Wish You Were Here" to the crazed bonkerness of "Atom Heart Mother". Clearly its the same band, but a flipside of the coin, yin to yang. And with little concern for conquering charts or having hits, they are off, on their own adventure, on the far side of the moon if you want to come. "I'm Working At NASA On Acid" does, by title alone, give the game away.
It isn't an easy record, or a quick one, but a dense, rewarding set of noise that bears repeated listening and will open your ears. I get it. This is artistic liberation and art fetishism. And it's never sounded so good.