Saturday, 7 July 2012

Recommended music: 'The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends' bt The Flaming Lips

Much better than their ropey cover of 'Dark Side of the Moon', more consistent than the patchy 'Embryonic', this is the best and most interesting Lips release for the last few years. Putting aside the nonsense of the special packaging for the Record Store Day vinyl release (including the artists' blood?) the record manages to rein in their indulgences sufficiently to make a surprisingly cohesive and tuneful record, while still allowing them the occasional freakout into psyche-land.

Opener '2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)' is definitely one of the best tracks on show, with Ke$ha switching from Amazonian robot mistress to sultry soul seducer and back again over the course of its 4 minutes.

'Ashes in the Air' sounds nothing like Justin Vernon's previous work, either with Bon Iver or any of his guest slots, and if there are echoes of Gayngs in his backing vocals there certainly aren't in the lyrics, which are about robot battles, burning flesh and generally being fucked up. Edward Sharpe takes the reins on the pastoral 'Helping The Retarded To Know God' which includes birdsong, choirs and acoustic guitars along with some squelchy space noises.

'Supermoon Made Me Want To Pee' is a noisy, scuzzy, mostly instrumental thrash which gives way to 'Children of the Moon, a happy, hippy song that could easily sit on either 'Mystics' or 'Yoshimi'. 'That Ain't My Trip' matches lyrics about 'shaving my balls' to a throbbing bassline and some great psyche guitars, and is followed by Nick Cave doing a bit of a Mark E. Smith impression on 'You, Man? Human???'.

I'm sure you can imagine what a song by The Flaming Lips called 'I'm Working At NASA On Acid' sounds starts off more gently that you might imagine, but the acid soon kicks in and you're on a supersonic space trip to Mars, before landing back at mission control at the end. 'Do It!' pins tribal drums to Yoko Ono's exhortations to, well, do it, while 'Is David Bowie Dying?' doesn't seem to have any discernible links to the Thin White Duke but is good nonetheless. This brings us to the big (10 minute long)  mistake on the album - the cover of 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' featuring Erykah Bade. The singing is mediocre at best, the backing track a dirge - frankly they were never going to improve on the original, but this is a very sub-standard version. 'Girl, You're so Weird' is much better - reasonably simple and straightforward, apart from the breakdown in the middle and the kinky lyrics, it shows what can be done when the balance between creativity and excess is carefully managed. Closer 'Tasered and Maced' is a strangely engaging story of someone being caught by the police, and sets a suitable unusual close to the record.

An entertaining amble through Wayne Coyne's contact list.

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