First album of original material since 2009’s Embryonic for Oklahoma’s finest.
Paul Lester 2012-06-22
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.