Published in May 2012 in the Hindu Metroplus Beatstreet
The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
The Flaming Lips have always had their finger on the pulse of all things crazy – gummy skulls, a 24-hour long song, covering Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, and (for this album) unsolicited calls to Erykah Badu.
In essence their new album ‘The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends’ is more of a compilation, although it does feel like a star-studded party from start to finish. The party-starter is ‘2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)’, with the reckless antics of Ke$ha and Biz Markie set to some noisy beats.
Another reason that this sounds like a compilation album is due to the timeline: The Flaming Lips recorded an entire EP last year with neo-psychedelic artists Neon Indian (‘Is David Bowie Dying?’) and Prefuse 73 (‘The Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee’) respectively, but pick out the best ones to feature on this album.
There are so many collaborations, but what will really make you have stars in your eyes is the music. It still remains sentimental and beautiful, much like the best of the band’s work. ‘Ashes in the Air’ featuring Bon Iver and ‘Helping the Retarded to Find God’ (featuring Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) set a very different mood by the time you have finished listening to the first side. Wayne Coyne and Justin Vernon’s vocals would mellow anyone out.
Yet, they don’t really compromise on their signature lo-fi psychedelic mush of music when it comes to inviting even the “headiest of fwends”, including Nick Cave, Chris Martin or Yoko Ono. And the music is just as diverse as the guests, ranging from the drone-toned guitars and bass combination of Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins respectively to the most soothing songs ever.
One of those that stand out best is ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ featuring Erykah Badu. Originally a jazz/folk song made famous by Roberta Flack in 1972, this ten-minute version is pure heaven; one you should have added to a playlist for early mornings and late nights. The album closes with ‘I Don’t Want You to Die’ featuring Coldplay’s Chris Martin, a simple piano tune set to some vaguely familiar lyrics.
The variety of the band’s collaborative ventures shows that not only do they tire of the conventional, but that they would go all out to ensure the novelty factor is acknowledged. There is probably a bit of favouritism when it comes to choosing the best songs, but The Flaming Lips push lesser-known artists to the front with this album.