The Flaming Lips - 'The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends' (Bella Union)

The Flaming Lips – ‘The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends’ (Bella Union)



2012 marks a new epoch for The Flaming Lips. Cut loose from their Warner Bros record contract, the Oklahoma agit-psychedlic dreamers continue to break conventions with their latest project, The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends LP. Signing to Bella Union in the process, the Lips announce their intentions to experiment even more – hell, the moneys disappearing from the music industry so why not?!

A busy past six months has seen them just break the record for the most gigs performed in a 24-hour period – going one appearance better than the previous record-holder, Jay Z‘s seven. In-between the continues whistle-stop schedule of tour dates, the pliable space-cadets have fitted in a number of collaborations with like-minded and congruous ‘fwends’, such as Nick Cave, Tame Impala, Yoko Ono and Neon Indian (just to name a few).  These mutual endeavours were first collated together as a limited edition vinyl release for Record Store Day on April 21st of this year, but due to demand – and that it wasn’t even released in the UK – it now receives a heralded, second-time-around, relaunch (this time it will be available as a digital download and on CD).

As you’d expect this 13-track album is full of tripy and imaginative sonic voraciousness, which either works like magic or slips into self-indulgence. Though recorded in isolation, the tracks follow a similar concept/pattern that alludes to the present finical fall-out and evils of Capitalism debate; Wayne Coyne and his brood asking to start over again, as they document various nightmare dystopian scenarios, whilst dreamily looking to the stars and universe for escape. Whether in a cyclonic vortex of noise and oscillation or drifting off languorously, the music and vocals can be quite stirring and emotive, though at times you’re never entirely sure if their entirely sincere or taking the piss: The hallowed reverent tone and tenderly sung vocals of Coyne and Alex Ebert (of Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros) on Helping The Retarded To Know God for example, sound blissfully moving, yet could be a subtle condemnation of those seeking a higher authority; whatever the truth, it’s one of the most ethereally beautiful songs featured.

The opening bout of industrial shit-kicking, 2012 (You Must Be Upgraded), features both the indolent roaming spit of Ke$ha, the legendary Hip Hop maverick Biz Markie – who seems to just be making up the numbers – and a mysterious group known as Hour Of The Time Majesty 12. Setting the agenda, Ke$ha’s party swagger is smashed against a repetitive authoritarian command, “You must be upgraded”; the backing moving from a chaotic fatalistic warning, to the swirling redolent feel of Strawberry Fields and the lines; “2012, welcome to the New Years party/Just save yourself, meet me on the other side/Is this the end, or we gonna start again.” Bon Iver continues with the dread on the following, Ashes In The Air; plaintively, and with tongue-in-cheek, roaming through an apocalyptic landscape to a dilatoriness pace and vapourous, zap-y backing. Bowie‘s influence is obviously apparent, though not in the conventional sense, as this pessimistic but romantic number sounds like a more laborious version of Cry Like A Baby from Scary Monsters And Super Creeps. There’s even a track named after the man who fell to Earth that asks, Is David Bowie Dying?

Almost like companion pieces, That Ain’t My Trip, which features My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James, and You Man?Human???, that has Nick Cave at the helm, seep into each other rather well. Jim James strides like a preacher through the, ‘whom-the-bell-tolls’, ominous doom rocker, whilst Cave lays his Grinderman, Burroughs, descriptive élan to a sleazy Gothic r’n’r trip. His messianic rant sounds at times like a acid-deranged review; “The swimming pool smells of chlorine/The gardener humanises the hedge with sheers/The pool house is obscene/No ones used the pool in years”. The next halcyon nebula tour, I’m Working At NASA On Acid – who’d have guessed! – features the dynamic noiseniks duo, Lightning Bolt. A song of two parts, with Coyne and the Lips wandering through a space-age spaghetti western soundtrack, ala the Red Crayola, before entering a distorted miasma of thundering drums and echo-y fuzz.

Some of the contributions remain a mystery of intent. The long-winded, morbidly slow and dragging cover version of the Ewan MacColl (written for Peggy Seeger) song, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, is a step too far. The building soaring vocals of Erykah Badu are drowned out by the monolithic heavy staggering beats and effects. As it happens Badu has since fallen out with Coyne over the video for this track which featured her naked sister convoluting with various poured substances – now taken off the net. A long-worded rebuttal aimed at Coyne, questioned his vision and intent; Badu accusing him of completely misjudging her artistic integrity.

Thankfully though, Chris Martin’s contribution has been removed and replaced by Tasered And Maced. Ghostland Observatory‘s Aaron Behrens recalls an anecdote about the time he ran into the law as the engine-running low synth oscillates in the background. A strangely hypnotic addition that actually works really well.


Adding another layer of provocative and lushly orchestrated cosmic noise and melodic dreaminess, The Flaming Lips have, for the most part, woven their guests musical predilections into  their own blueprint sound without too much fuss. Despited its occasional fragmentation and disjointedness this highly experimental exercise follows a logical course and reverberates with a spirited harmonious warmth. Perhaps one of the best things this group has ever done.







God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.