The Flaming Lips
With a Little Help From My Fwends
Nov 14, 2014 Web Exclusive
Anyone lamenting The Flaming Lips' later work as too experimental and inaccessible might find With a Little Help From My Fwends a refreshing detour. Not because it breaks from that trend—it doesn't—but because the safety of a classic Beatles record allows them to stretch their experimental legs while still producing a grounded experience.
The collaborative method brings to mind the uneven Heady Fwends, and it's not the first time The Lips have covered an entire beloved album. Sonically, the band continues to push boundaries. With a Little Help might contain some of their most imaginative experiments to date, but since they're wrapped them up in such familiar packaging the result is a relatively digestible helping of psychedelic treats.
Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, and an impressive collective of artists and pop stars alike—including Moby, Miley Cyrus, Tegan & Sara, and Foxygen, just to name a few—really dig into the songs here. It is the pop music equivalent of a modern, star-studded adaptation of Shakespeare; there's plenty of scenery to chew, and not a piece is left for scraps.
There are a few occasions where the songs get lost in the dizzying effects, but other moments are purely delightful. The Lips actually manage to bring out the hidden beauty of the otherwise tedious "She's Leaving Home." It's not much of a stretch to claim that this version, featuring Phantogram, Julianna Barwick, and Spaceface, is an improvement on the original.
With all the help from his "fwends," Wayne Coyne feels completely absent—he probably isn't, but his voice rarely makes an appearance unless aided by a thick haze of vocoder effects. Ultimately it doesn't feel much like a proper Flaming Lips album, at least not as much as their take on Dark Side of the Moon, but like that album it's an intriguing glimpse of whatever strange journey they have planned next. (www.flaminglips.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 4/10
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