The Flaming Lips party with their friends for this Record Store Day one-off.
2012, Warner Bros. / Lovely Sorts of Death
7.8 / 10.0
Before we head into this review, I should state that I’m reviewing the Record Store Day release version of this album and not the chopped down version you can buy online. The key difference is the collaboration with Chris Martin, “I Don’t Want You To Die” has been replaced by “Tasered And Maced” (feat. Aaron Behrens). So it may depend on your personal preference as to which you choose, I will say that Coldplay haters likely would not dismiss “I Don’t Want You To Die” as boring or sleepy. Wayne Coyne pulls the very best out of Martin for the track.
The Flaming Lips are smart in that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Every Record Store Day prompts Wayne Coyne to come up with some wacky new idea to market new Flaming Lips’ music that usually remains exclusive to the Record Stores. Think back to the gummy skulls and gummy fetuses of past Flaming Lips’ RSD goodies; however, this year Coyne topped his previous offerings not only with a full album featuring collaborations from a stacked guest list, but he also infused the record itself with the blood of many of the album’s participants. Talk about a true collector’s item. You just needed over a grand to purchase one, and many people did just that.
If the marketing is any indication of The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends’ unique scope, the music contained within the album is just as cleverly unconventional, introducing many serious musicians (Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Erykah Badu, and Yoko Ono) to the world of The Flaming Lips. Heady Fwends presented the opportunity to take a walk on the weird side. Thankfully the participants didn’t stiffen up, even with some of the song titles coming off as mildly offensive (“Helping the Retarded to Find God”, “I’m Working at NASA on Acid”, and “Is David Bowie Dying?”). I’m assuming the Lips came up with the song titles and lyrics, but if not, my hat is tipped to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.
Heady Fwends thematically plays along with the Flaming Lips’ oddball fascinations with futuristic themes and sci-fi elements (robot dogs, hello?). The album works the same way if Ed Wood could have cast Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, or Clark Gable in his craptastic films. But unlike Ed Wood, the Flaming Lips push their Heady Fwends to their very best. This is the first time I’ve heard a Yoko Ono song that I would actually listen to more than once. Justin Vernon’s collab, “Ashes in the Air”, is hauntingly emotional, even if some of the lyrics are simply far out. “You, Man? Human???” is another stunner with Nick Cave sounding comfortable in his Wayne Coyne selected surroundings. Did Cave ad lib this song on the spot? It sure sounds like it.
Even the Lips’ pop star collaborations with Ke$ha and Coldplay’s Chris Martin work surprisingly well. Ke$ha supposedly got so excited about working with Coyne that she wanted to drop acid before recording. “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)” comes off as Ke$ha’s best song, mixing the Lips’ Embryonic with Russ Meyers, and Ke$ha living up to her hype as a naughtier Britney Spears. “I Don’t Want You To Die”, the Lips’ and Chris Martin’s collaboration, begins as a remake of John Lennon’s imagine, but then transforms into its own song and swims in the same emotional depths as “Ashes In The Air”.
One thing that Heady Fwends accomplishes is creating a desire to hear more rock collaborations like this in the future. Multiple musicians working together on a singular project is something mostly seen in the rap genre; however, the Flaming Lips didn’t relegate any of their collaborations to single verses from their guests. Heady Fwends makes the guest musicians the stars rather than cameos, and many of the songs are extended to epic lengths, getting the most out of the artists and giving listeners their money’s worth. Guess what, Heady Fwends is worth every penny.