Better line up early at your favorite house of wax on Record Store Day (Saturday) if you're a Flaming Lips fanatic. Warner Bros. Records is only pressing a measly 10,000 copies of “The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends,” the fearless freaks' much ballyhooed collection of quirky collaborations with a cross-section of dizzyingly disparate players.
Irreverent pop powder keg Ke$ha commands you to dance to the incessant pounding of a bass drum pedal and discordant chord-banging on “2012” as she declares “Well it's 2012 / People going to hell / Put me under / Your acid spell,” and a robotic little voice keeps insisting “You must be upgraded ... You must be upgraded.”
The irresistible handclapping noise-fest seems about to build to freak-out levels before suddenly gliding into a hauntingly beautiful synthesizer soundscape with Ke$ha assuming a more soothing vocal mode.
Then the rhythmic raging rises anew in the final 30 seconds of the piece.
East Coast rapper Biz Markie is also contributing to the din, but it's uncertain what that contribution is.
Autumnal, indie-rocking Bon Iver joins forces with Wayne Coyne and company for the eerily majestic aural edifice of distorted electronic keyboards and melancholy vocal harmonies that is “Ashes in the Air,” while Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros help fashion the shimmering acoustic guitar and synthesizer colors of the pastoral “Helping the Retarded to Know God.”
Aussie avant-rocker Nick Cave brings his menacing spoken-word imagery to the behemoth-size buzz-guitar, heavenly-harp-and-chimes space-jam “You, Man? Human?”
Yoko Ono brings sexual urgency to the primal beats and spacey twang of “Do It,” which is exactly what she chants repeatedly throughout, throwing in a couple of strangled cries along the way.
Her stylings are still an acquired taste, but so are several of the tracks from “Fwends,” particularly the cacophonous buzz and drone of “That Ain't My Trip” with My Morning Jacket's Jim James, and the willfully grating sonic muddle and monotony that makes up the better part of “I'm Working at NASA on Acid,” featuring stormy experimentalists Lightning Bolt.
But the brighter moments make this brave new album worth owning, especially the moving, piano-accompanied ballad meditation on life and death, “I Don't Want You to Die,” with Coldplay's Chris Martin, and their devastatingly gorgeous, ethereal cover of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” featuring the mesmerizingly languorous and soulful voice of R&B songstress Erykah Badu.
The 13 songs are pressed on two high-quality, multicolored vinyl platters packaged in custom art jackets and bagged together (and yes, you need a turntable).
No two discs will look exactly alike.
It's a must-have for Wayne worshippers.
But if you miss out on this limited Record Store Day treasure, don't despair, kids. The Lips are working on an album of new music as you read this, due for regular wide release just months from now.
— Gene Triplett