REVIEW: The Flaming Lips’ “With A Little Help From My Fwends”

 photo FlamingLips14_cover_zpsd41ccabf.jpg The last time we heard from The Flaming Lips, they made a fantastic album called The Trial (my review of which can be read by clicking here.) After having a bit of surprise success with their cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon in full, the Oklahoma gentlemen decided to get into their mushroom storage shed again to cover another classic rock album, this time The Beatles’ highly cherished Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The new album is called With A Little Help From My Fwends (Warner Bros.), called this because the Lips are joined by a number of special guests, some welcomed, some unwelcomed, some surprises, others not so much. Overall, it is a split effort. Some songs work fairly well while others fail miserably, even within the context of The Flaming Lips. Some of the more demented stuff is quite good, including versions of “With A Little Help From My Friends” with Black Pus and Autumn Defense), “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite” (with Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer and Sunbears), “Lovely Rita” (featuring Tegan and Sara, Stardeath and White Dwarfs), and “When I’m Sixty-Four” (with Def Rain & Pitchwafuzz). Surprisingly, it is Miley Cyrus’ two contributions (yes, two) to the album are some of the best songs here, playing roles in “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (which also features Moby) and “A Day In The Life” (featuring New Fumes). If Cyrus ever steers towards making more serious music, she may become a huge influence on a generation or two of many young singers. That’s not a joke.

The absolute best track is “With A Little Help From My Friends” not only because it has Black Pus but because it’s the noisiest on here. Would I listen to this on a regular basis, not really. I prefer other Flaming Lips albums and EP’s and I like The Beatles’ album a bit too much, even though I do enjoy the way they’ve always reinterpreted other people’s works. It may work very well for other listeners so if your mind is open up to this, definitely plug it in. Despite the fact that a good part of it sounds like a total failure (and definitely feel freel to define “failure” in your own way), the good thing about this is that all proceeds from record sales will go to The Bella Foundation, an organization in Oklahoma City that helps provide veterinary care to needy pet owners. Buy it for that reason.


REVIEW: The Flaming Lips’ “2nd Cassette Demo” (EP)

 photo FlamingLips2nd_cover_zps1936d50a.jpg The first time I became familiar with The Flaming Lips name was in the early days of Rip magazine, when the magazine wasn’t afraid to show an alternate side to music before they became an all hard rock/heavy metal publication. Even the album reviews made them out to be wild musically and very few people, including themselves, thought they would be around 30 years later. Here they are, Oklahoma’s finest, still making fine music and productions. 2nd Cassette Demo (Lovely Sorts of Death) is self-explanatory, as it dips into the Wayne Coyne archives and shows the very young band from the late summer of 1983. They sound like a lot of punk bands from the area, but you’re hearing an Oklahoma perspective of what these guys wanted to be and eventually became. The rugged rock sounds like something you might hear on albums by The Stooges, MC5, Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., or the Sex Pistols. It very much has that lively spirit of “we want to rock and get the hell out of here, let’s see what we can do”, and what’s also heard is how the group were playing with volume and distortion. They were not the noisy mavens they would become three years later, but it’s obvious what they wanted to do.

REVIEW: The Flaming Lips’ “The Terror”

Flaming Lips photo FlamingLips13_cover_zps86df91ee.jpg Upon looking at the cover of The Terror (Warner Bros.), it leads to a bit of thought. What is the image trying to say? Is it of a man simply bending on the ground, and if so, why? Does the special effect on the picture make it look eerie or trippy? Does it signify death, perhaps an apocalypse, on the verge on the end of the world? Or is it just some guy bending down in grass? If this was an album from the early 1970’s, someone would roll a joint on the cover, and that’s one way to describe the new music by The Flaming Lips. Does it make sense? I’ll try again.

This is the first new Flaming Lips album in four years, although with everything the band has recorded between 2009 and 2013, it may not seem like much of a gap, if at all. If their music has been moving into trippy styling of pop and rock, they’ve decided to go out to the edge. In fact, the one band I compared much of this album to was Yes, known for their Close To The Edge album, and I think the overall mood on this one as “let’s move close to that edge and see what they were looking at”. This is very much a progressive rock album with different moods and textures, often within the same song, and occasionally within a minute of the same song. Vocalist/guitarist Wayne Coyne is singing in high tones throughout, higher than the norm and if there is something to fear about the terror of The Terror, Coyne is taking a long time to explain why. That’s the point: these songs aren’t meant to explain anything directly, you have to go through the motions and oceans of music and sound to get a sense of what the Flaming Lips are trying to say. To make a few Pink Floyd comparisons, this is much more reliant on Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, and Obscured By Clouds in terms of sensibilities and content, as songs that sound incredibly hard and vulgar morph into sensual psychedelics quite easily. Most of this album is not pop-friendly by any means, not even alterna-friendly, this one is just off the rocker, as if the guys in the band decided to take some pretty mean mushrooms and go off on that for a few weeks.

If there is one song that has some level of getting any radio airplay, it may be the closing track, “Sun Blows Up Today”. It swings a bit like early to mid-60’s surf and garage rock, but its Pac-Man-style sound effects and distorted guitars and synths turn it into a noisy fest, as if we’re hearing the creation of the very first orgasm. “You Lust” is the album’s 13-minute masterpiece and even after upon initial listens, you’ll want to hop back/onto it again to get a different glimpse of what just went on. A Mellotron (or a keyboard with a Mellotron plug-in) runs through the song and makes its presence known at the end, as a voice that sounds like what one might hear at an airport or railway station. One is not sure what it all means, but it involves multiple lessons to figure out what may be going on in the minds of the Lips.

As a major label album, this goes back to the early 70’s when companies were willing to release anything and everything, even if it wasn’t understood, or the hidden delicacies of the early 90’s when labels were hunting down anything alternative and sometimes came up with a gem. The Terror is Flaming Lips’ non-hit album with many delicacies found within, and while this is certain not to appeal to those who still love “Do You Realize”, this is very much an album for those who have always admired the band’s need to reach the outer limits. They’re very much close to that edge, but understanding how not to completely fall off, although this comes very close to getting there.

(The Terror will be released on April 2nd.)

VIDEO: The Flaming Lips + Lightning Bolt’s “I’m Working at NASA on Acid”

If you did not suffer too much brain damage from the first video, then make a path for this new one. This is from the collaboration between The Flaming Lips and Lightning Bolt. The video looks like something left over from the Yoshimi video sessions, and really when you got good bands like this, who cares? Let it in like you’re a Wings hit song.

BTW – I’m referring to this one.