The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
There's an immense pressure that comes with trying to comment and critique a band that cover so much ground in their exploits. Whether that be frequenting back alleys and divots as cult heroes, exploding into mainstream culture with 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots or just generally being true gents; The Flaming Lips have an aura, hence my fretfulness. However, attached to my anxiety was confusion – The Flaming Lips have just signed to Bella Union, and their debut is constructed of purely collaborative efforts? How peculiar, and chancy! How often do these ventures bear musical fruits? I mean, sure, Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder's Ebony & Ivory is fun, but it's also hardly groundbreaking, is it? But once you take a glimpse at that lengthy list of contributors: Nick Cave, Yoko Ono, Bon Iver, Ke$ha, Jim James – there's not only sheer variety but unfathomable quality, so the definitive question becomes: "I wonder what they'll do?"
Immediately, it's hard to imagine that The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends is the real follow-up to the soaring success of Embroyonic. These collaborations have been surfacing gradually amongst their tour schedule for the last year or so and, once you start trudging through the track listing, it's instantly identifiable that it's not as scrutinised and magnified as that what usually comes from Wayne Coyne and co. But when a more throwaway attitude is introduced as a foreign element to groups of this psychedelic ilk, you can sometimes see benefits and in this case, their potent sense of humour and natural variety rings true. By track two, we've heard Coyne and Justin Vernon serenade one another -- "You and me, we're both so fucked up/ But you're fucked up in the good way, and I'm fucked up in the bad"—'Ashes In The Air' has both sincerity and haunting melody at its behest, juxtaposed perfectly by the offensive opening crafted with high-pitched dog frequencies and dog-eyed contributor, Ke$ha.
It's easy to raise questions about what unites this album, but the intense diversity shown track-by-track merely showcases why The Flaming Lips are able to make the records that they do. There's a reason why people have been travelling worldwide to see these guys for the last near-thirty years. The fact that the sweet atmospheric melodies in 'Helping The Retarded To Know God' don't match up to the intensity of 'Supermoon Made Me Want To Pee', or the hilarious groove-tune 'That Ain't My Trip' would only irritate a fan of TV's Supernanny. Note: Yes, Jim James' sings "You always want to shave my balls, that ain't my trip." And yes, I did spit out coffee all over my kimono when I heard it.
Much like the record's opener '2012 [You Must Be Upgraded]', Nick Cave's additions to 'You. Me? Human???' are entertaining enough but, unlike Ke$ha, you feel he's a victim to a minor lapse in the quality of the song itself. To me, it just sounds a little like somebody trying to explain what Frank Zappa's Over-Nite Sensation is, but with a dampening of a hangover. However, once 'I'm working at NASA on Acid' has sped through its eight-minute lifespan, teeming with both immediacy and individuality; Heady Fwends is back on track.
Yoko Ono's 'Do It' is a dreary pre-cursor to Heavy Fwends' pinnacle, 'Is David Bowie Dying?'. The six-minute thirty-eight second long effort is recorded with Neon Indian and is a testimonial to the icon. It boasts an intense harmonious core and has a bittersweet dialogue that cries out for you to 'Take your legs and run, into the death rays of the sun'.
As a creation that has spiralled in and out of control begins to approach its subdued, grandiose ending, the homages fly in. Whilst the aforementioned Bowie track is beautiful, 'The First Time' is an artistic movement in its own right; its manifesto being Ewan MacColl's 1957 love-affair with his soon-to-be-wife Peggy Seeger. This variation insists sombre sentiment, echoed not only thoroughly throughout the record, but wholly in its dying moments (forgetting the late-arrival of the quirky 'Girl You're So Weird' and 'Tasered and Maced'). Whether that message be a man writing a sonnet to his beloved, or Wayne Coyne pledging himself to the world around him, 'I Don't Want You To Die' is an encapsulating end to the constant commentary of The Flaming Lips' personal bond with artistic culture. At that moment, what sounds like a complex release is stripped to its very bare bones. Grasping John Lennon's rib-cage, Coyne sings like he's a child again, and the last fifteen years are forgotten. As The Flaming Lips have written a piece in a concept-fashion similar to those of the people who have inspired this album, a reliance on their contemporaries is charming and at times riveting, but may have confused what they were trying to convey.
Purchase and listen
Artist: The Flaming Lips Release: 'Embryonic' When: Out Now On: Warner Bros More Info: http://www.flaminglips.com/ The Flaming Lips are like Nelson Mandela, they could get away with anything and people will still love them. Indeed, few bands will ever see the resounding level of integrity, fame and high critical regard of Oklahoma-based experimental 4 piece Flaming Lips. Impressively, the band still managed to retain the experimentalism and nonconformity that they have become so renown... [read more]
"...and Alexandra palace erupted in chaos. Confetti exploded out of cannons, Wizard Of Oz themed dancers flooded on to the stage and dozens of balloons were released into the audience. It was a overwhelmingly grand opening, and anybody familiar with the Flaming Lips' live set will know why. I wanted to look at everything at once..." [read more]
The Terror does make sense that way. With Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) and At War with the Mystics (2006), The Flaming Lips reached an almost-mainstream career point – and The Terror's nine tracks are more like those albums than the more recent and much looser Embryonic (2009) or fan favourite, mid-nineties effort Clouds Taste Metallic (1995). [read more]
Label: Warner Bros. Release date: 28/06/10 Link: Website Buy: Amazon The Flaming Lips have always been one of those amazingly 'weird' experimental bands, maintaining greatness by remaining slightly indefinable, and whose music ranges between insanely catchy indie pop hit to incomprehensible prog rock noise and back again within each individual album. Obviously, their full-length cover of Dark Side of the Moon featuring Peaches and Henry Rollins neatly ticks all of these boxes. All ... [read more]