A track-for-track remake played with love, but no ambition to better the original.
Mike Diver 2010
“Why?” is a question that doesn’t seem to have particularly fazed The Flaming Lips over the course of their lengthy career. Why the four-disc portmanteau-titled album that’s near-impossible to play properly? Why the giant bubble? Why spend several years working on bizarre low-budget sci-fi flick Christmas on Mars? So it’s unlikely anybody grilling Wayne Coyne on the reasons behind this track-for-track remake of Pink Floyd’s 1973 original will get much in the way of sense as a response. The answer to “why?”, it seems, is just because they can.
Sequenced to match the Floyd album, with Henry Rollins providing the spoken-word samples and Berlin-based electro-menace Peaches in for Clare Torry’s stratosphere-breaching vocal on The Great Gig in the Sky, this homage is a creation that only its makers can probably fully appreciate. Those enamoured with the original will find the skewed lo-fi psychedelia of Lips collaborators Stardeath and White Dwarfs, experimental rockers from Oklahoma City, unpalatable compared with the studio slickness they’re familiar with. Followers of The Flaming Lips will feel comfortable with the added weirdness they’ve brought to proceedings, but there’s nothing here that exceeds what Pink Floyd created. By tackling such a popular record, the artists here were only ever likely to come up short. That they have done so is more a result of the high standard of the material at hand, though, and less so any shortcomings in the abilities of these musicians.
So what’s to like? On the Run twists itself into a funky, !!!-goes-prog slab of strut-along fun; the moment Coyne breaks through the fog of Time is magic, storminess stopped abruptly to a silence punctured only by a sweetly reserved vocal; and the squelchy bassline to Money is even more ridiculous of cheeky swagger here than it was before. The latter track’s robotic voices are perhaps a period pastiche misstep, though – the Smash Martians appeared on TV a year after the original Dark Side, so weren’t available to Roger Waters and company. There’s nothing here that offends, nothing that isn’t played with a deep affection for the material; but, equally, there’s nothing that takes said material and elevates it to a new plateau of appreciation.
That’s not true, actually. Peaches’ banshee turn on Great Gig actually surpasses the frenzied wailing of Torry’s amazing histrionics. It’s completely beguiling, and when Rollins delivers those “I’m not frightened of dying” lines, the track becomes more mesmerising than ever.