First album of original material since 2009’s Embryonic for Oklahoma’s finest.
Paul Lester 2012
Following The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and At War With the Mystics, The Flaming Lips were poised to supplant R.E.M. as the world’s biggest major-label alternative rock band. But never ones to do the obvious, 2009’s Embryonic was anti-commercial even by their early-career standards.
Instead of panicking, the Lips have spent 2012 experimenting more wantonly than ever. They’ve ploughed forward, recording a six-hour song, then a 24-hour one, and finally an album with musicians as wildly disparate as Ke$ha and Nick Cave, Chris Martin and Prefuse 73.
That album, Heady Fwends, was a limited-run release for Record Store Day 2012, and it’s now being made widely available by their new label, Bella Union. On many levels it’s a delight. In terms of their ability to attract A-list names, both underground and mainstream, the Lips are the Woody Allens of pop – credit to ringmaster Wayne Coyne for consistently taking them out of their usual contexts or comfort zones.
And for sheer frazzled sonics and sci-fi future textures, Heady Fwends can’t be beat. Actual songs are few and far between, and anyone looking for heart-stopping melodies will be disappointed. But if you’re in the mood for a 70-minute aural assault, listen no further.
The Ke$ha/Biz Markie team-up, 2012, is an update of The Stooges’ 1969, Ms Sebert relishing her role as a cyborg Iggy. Ashes in the Air, featuring Bon Iver, and Do It!, with Yoko Ono, feel unfinished: less songs, more agglomerations of sounds to test the range of your stereo equipment, and your patience. The Prefuse 73-starring Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee is like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in a black hole.
Children of the Moon, with Tame Impala, is the closest thing here to a potential single, equal parts sonic phantasmagoria and simple acoustica. The Nick Cave track, You, Man? Human???, is like Dylan meets Disney in Dusseldorf. And The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – its video the cause of a recent heated Twitter rant from its guest, Erykah Badu – resembles a cosmic version of what Isaac Hayes used to do to Burt Bacharach.
Like we said: never ones to do the obvious.