The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends – album review

The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (Bella Union)
CD/Dl Out Now, LP 13th Aug

A new album from The Flaming Lips has just received it’s first ‘proper’ release. The album consists of versions of some of their songs re-recorded with the help of, you guessed it, some of their ‘heady fwends’. Here Chris Ledwidge reviews it for us.

Originally put out as a Record Store Day release earlier in the year “Heady Fwends” is a collection of 13 somewhat experimental tracks recorded in 2011 and 2012 when Flaming Lips had completed their Warner Bros. record deal and were languishing in a no-man’s land while they figured out what direction the band would move in next.

Each track is a collaboration with at least one, or in some cases many, other artists so this does cause a disturbance in the continuity throughout. Having said that it is possible to clearly hear each of the featured artist’s parts in the making of the record and where the Flaming Lips production, mixing and mastering comes over to complete their own signature trippiness. In some cases the featured artists had met up with Wayne Coyne and the Lips to write but in other cases songs were stitched together from files shared only by email.

A balance is met between heavily distorted guitar, synth and bass lines in many tracks such as the opening track 2012 (with Ke$ha), You, Man? Human? (with Nick Cave) and other more mellow arrangements like on Children of the Moon (with Tame Impala) and Ashes in the Air (with Bon Iver).

From the start the record stomps along at quite a pace until it’s stopped in its tracks by a 10 minute long version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (with Erykah Badu). It’s difficult to see a release like this as anything more than an interesting recording project rather than a complete coherent work in itself. It sometimes seems that the only thing that connects each of the songs on the record is a sense of randomness.

This physical CD or digital release of “Heady Fwends” has some changes from the Record Store Day vinyl disc; I Don’t Want To Die featuring Chris Martin and another song Thunder Drops have been dropped. A decent record which served its purpose for Record Store day 2012, it will be interesting to see though if any of these tracks are dug up for a live effort if touring schedules overlap with any of the other artists featured over the next couple of years.

This is definitely a record for fans of the Flaming Lips. If you’re a newcomer then you’ll be better served to seek out one of the more standard releases from the bands 30 year career. You’ll probably love it if you can get past the hotch-potch, cut and paste arrangements of the songs but for me this was the barrier to fully enjoying what could have been a real treat of a record with some better and more personal song writing.

The Flaming Lips website is here. Wayne Coyne is on twitter as @waynecoyne

All words by Chris Ledwidge. This is Chris’s first piece for Louder Than War. You can find Chris on twitter as @chrisledwidge.

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