Album Review: The Flaming Lips ‘The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends’
For what has the appearance of a compilation album, and is ostensibly an excuse for The Flaming Lips to work with a bunch of artists they seem to appreciate, it makes for a stellar album experience. I fully expected the songs to be disconnected, slightly self-serving jams and experiments. While the album runs the gamut of styles and features a vast host of diverse contributors, it still works perfectly as a whole, and that’s a bit of magic.
‘2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)’ sets the tone for the album well, showing a bit of The Flaming Lips’ experimental nature, while also showcasing two of their most unlikely collaborators right off the bat: Biz Markie and Ke$ha. The latter is heavily featured and sounds great here, to the surprise, I’m sure, of many.
The album is only slightly less outlandish than your typical The Flaming Lips release, trading a modicum of weirdness for a healthy dose of team spirit, and in a way the result is at least equally as unpredictable as the rest of their catalog. I don’t think a conscious decision was made to keep things a bit closer to the ground here, and more listenable, but whether by design or by fluke, it’s a record new listeners will be able to get into right away.
Bon Iver contribute to ‘Ashes in the Air’, a song that is equal parts ugly and beautiful, and it’s exactly what you would expect from the marriage of these two acts. The album’s quiet moments are ethereal, drifting in and out of orbit but spending most of their time here on Earth. When the music gets a bit more energetic it is loud, frenetic, and psychedelic, but not to a degree that will put off the uninitiated in any strong way..
‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ featuring Erykah Badu is an utterly gorgeous, very textured song, and one which almost wasn’t made at all. Badu originally declined the invitation to work with the band, but Coyne was able to convince her in the end, and I’m sure she doesn’t regret it. This is easily one of the best songs on the record, and probably not the kind of track you would expect to hear that about.
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends is a phenomenal album, from a band which seems incapable of putting out anything less. Not all of the artists featured here are very well known, but the purpose of collaborating doesn’t appear to be reaching out into the fanbases of others, but simply making great music.
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.