The Flaming Lips // The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends
Nick Cave, Yoko Ono, Ke$Ha and more are all aboard The Flaming Lips' magic bus for an album of collaborations. It could have been an acid casualty, yet somehow it hangs together - writes Ric Rawlins
The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends
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As if giving birth to yourself via vaginal space pods, recording 24 hour long songs encased in human skulls and bouncing about in human hamster balls wasn’t enough to satisfy a general sense of boredom with the world, The Flaming Lips have seemingly embarked on a new hobby that involves collecting blood. Er, yes, real human blood. Those kids, they get bored so easily!
The blood collection is, apparently, entirely legitimate – it’s simply a by-product of their new album, The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends. Rather like a TV special of An Evening With Neil Diamond, this is a one-off series of collaborations, with the sole differences being that a) the band doesn’t suck, b) the guests don’t suck and c) the band do suck the blood of their guests: a special edition of this LP is reportedly available with blood samples donated by each featured accomplice. (Offering free blood with music also has the handy side effect of making those moaning, “Bring back B sides!” campaigners look like feeble moderates.)
Absorbing all of the above is rather like trying to absorb a Flaming Lips gig: you sort-of start thinking about what it all means… but then accidentally swallow a piece of confetti that’s been blasted at you by a gorilla with a canon. The bonus of their recorded output is, at least, that you get to sit back and go “Holy shit, they’re actually really good musicians!”
Seeing as we’re all fame obsessed, shallow beings these days, let’s get some of the more famous Fwends covered first, shall we? Yoko Ono features on ‘Do It!’ to demand that you “Do It!” – possibly to her – with a striking degree of erotic rage. It’s a weirdly kinky song, and not just because Yoko sounds perpetually on the verge of an unholy orgasm, but also because the music accompanying her resembles a B movie about pygmy tribes from Planet Zorba.
Nick Cave can be found on ‘You, Man Human’, ranting; “You can touch me if you want… it’s obligatory! It’s allowed! Everybody climb in!” like some sort of demented televangelist. “You’ve got everything to win! You’ve got nothing to lose!” he croons, possibly with a silver glint in his teeth. It’s an uncanny reminder of some of the characters from his debut novel And The Ass Saw The Angel.
Elsewhere, Ke$Ha is one member of this cast who’s gone on record as donating blood to Wayne and co, and her track – the opener ‘2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)’ is a bouncy piece of tropically morphed R&B, complete with handclaps and a hilarious robot voice demanding: “YOU MUST BE UPGRADED!” (sound familiar, Mac owners?) before a bluesy, acid house style breakdown offers some euphoric shelter from the weirdness.
Bon Iver’s contribution harks back to Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, with its talk of hopeless attempts to defeat the enemy and melancholic space harmonies, while the album highlight is possible ‘That Aint My Trip’, which features Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Aside from its classic opening line (“You always want to shave my balls / that ‘aint my trip”), musically this track resembles the atmosphere of ‘Watching The Planets’ (from 2009’s ‘Embryonic’ album) with its relentless witch doctor hypnotism, both hilariously cheesy and mysteriously voodoo.
Like many things The Flips have done, it’s easy at first to assume that ‘Heady Fwends’ is a gimmick – until you hear the simply ace tunes and are forced to concede that, hmm! Maybe this IS indeed all part of one giant, cohesive, inclusive and utterly bonkers work of art. Readers? I have been forced to concede this. ‘Heady Fwends’ is another classic from America’s fruitiest band.