First released on Record Store Day 2012 (although not in the UK) with unique every edition is different packaging The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends is a rich, bizarre record that features 13 collaborations with some of the music industries most illustrious experimenters.
Opening track ’2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)’ is an explosive sci-fi joint as Britney Spears writer and pop star in her own right Ke$ha guests over a track which sounds a lot like Lightning Bolt who later feature on ‘I’m Working At NASA On Acid’. The track features a Cyberman hook of ‘You Must Be Upgraded’ and becomes a thrilling intro to what much of the other collaborations don’t live up to, perhaps telling of Ke$ha’s ability to write a pop hit.
The Flaming Lips then guest with an ensemble cast including but not limited to Yoko Ono, Prefuse 73 and Neon Indian for varied results over 67 minutes of collaboration for an experimental album that feels an organic soul wrapped in a digital processing. While you won’t find anthemic choruses with harmonies to tear your heart open that can be found elsewhere in The Flaming Lips back catalogue the messy crackling cyborg style remains an enjoyable investigation throughout and is more likeable to their style on super experimental 4 CD packaged ‘Zaireeka’.
Highlights of the opus include ‘That Ain’t My Trip’ with Jim James of My Morning Jacket for a spectral raw garage crunch while Tame Impala collaboration ‘Children of The Moon’ sounds like it could be from an imaginary 80s David Bowie cover album by Frank Zappa and George Clinton.
‘You, Man? Human???’ featuring Nick Cave is an entertaining prospect to feature Nick Cave but remains just, pretty silly. While the Lightning Bolt collaboration brings some much needed BPM into the scheme, before going back to the albums thematic dirge for a further 3 minutes. This is an album which would work best listened to at night, its long and subtle in its development, especially on Erykah Badu’s cover of folk, chillout and R&B classic ballad ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ which drones for 10 minutes of hidden vocals beneath echo and feedback while album closer ‘Tasered And Maced’ featuring Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory is reminiscent of a handful of 90s Mogwai tracks, and is a treasured surprise and a fitting closer to a vast experimental record which is flawed, abrasive and very playful.
‘The Flaming Lips And Heavy Fwends’ is released on Bella Union 30th July
- Ben Loom @stronglook