The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends

A reminder of what a great band the Flips actually are.

Label: Bella Union

Rating: 7

As anyone who has ever had the unadulterated joy of catching the Flaming Lips live can attest, our Oklahoma heroes are without challenger to the title of ultimate psychedelic party band. But stripped of all the puppets and giant hands, balloons and confetti, you’re often left with an uncomfortable truth; Wayne Coyne’s voice is kinda weak. With a cast of such impressive cohorts, from Bon Iver to Nick Cave via Tame Impala, you can’t help but worry that they’ll show up his cracked vocals. Fortunately we’re left here with a reminder of musically, just what a great band the Flips themselves actually are.

Sure, it’s no Yoshimi or Soft Bulletin, and the album title itself is awful beyond belief, but stacked up against 2009’s ‘Embryonic’, it’s easy to see who’s won this particular battle. After all, it’s a great achievement alone when you have a duet with Yoko Ono, and that turns out to not be the most batshit crazy track on your album; that award goes to the Neon Indian collaboration, ‘Is David Bowie Dying?’, which teeters on the verges of ‘unlistenable’ but just about manages not to fall over the edge. Elsewhere, the duet with Ke$ha finds the dirty pop princess earning her punk rock stripes as a madcap female Iggy Pop impersonator, and is genuinely as bombastic as hell, whilst the Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros number, ‘Helping The Retarded Know God’, may be appallingly monikered, but at its most beautiful, feels like a sweet sweet port, in a storm of feedback induced insanity.

But it’s Erykah Badu who properly steals the show with that ten minute long cover of ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, after what might be considered by those of a more cynical persuasion as a brilliantly timed pre-release PR Spat. Whilst we’ll never know whether it would have made it into original songwriter Ewan Macoll’s ‘Chamber Of Horrors’ - the area of his record collection wherein he kept every cover version of the song - Badu vocally soars above and beyond every other track on the album, and despite the length, still manages to make this feel like the most commercially viable ‘single’. Guess that proves, once and for all, you really can kiss her glittery ass.