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Album Review: The Flaming Lips

January 7, 2010

The Dark Side of the Moon – 2009

Alright, so I previously mentioned how bummed I was about not getting to go see the Lips NYE Freakout in Oklahoma City, where they planned to play their version of DSOTM in its entirety at midnight.  I quickly got over it since I was then able to attend a four-day camping trip with my husband and amazing friends, but needless to say, it would have been quite a time.  I mean, I’m not sure I’ve ever been properly freaked out at a concert.  So, in order to ease my regret over not making the irrationally long twelve-hour drive there and back in two days, I did do the second best thing.  I downloaded The Flaming Lips’ cover of Pink Floyd’s classic album and blasted it on New Year’s right at midnight from our position huddled around a fire in the woods.  And yes, it was as sweet as it sounds.

If you downloaded DSOTM from iTunes, you might have noticed the extremely mixed reviews by the users.  Understandably, die-hard Floyd fans aren’t real happy with The Flaming Lips take on their beloved album.  I have to say, my college years were pretty Pink Floyd-filled…we listened to all their albums (interspersed with some Bob Marley of course) on a fairly constant loop for at least a couple of years.  Dark Side as done by Pink Floyd is a brilliant, intricately done progressive rock concept album, and if the intricacy is what you love about it, then you might not be a fan of the Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs (Wayne Coyne’s nephew’s band which experiments in psychedelic rock) featuring Henry Rollins and Peaches version.  Just merely mentioning all of those artists in one sentence should be kind of a hint.

It wasn’t at all a surprise to me that Wayne and company crazied-up DSOTM even more than it already was.  Firstly, they were billing it at an event called a Freakout and secondly, it’s The Flaming Lips, people.  They’ve been experimenting with noise and psychedelic fuzz for decades now (in spite of the significantly more listener-friendly but no less brilliant Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi), and sure enough, their version of each Dark Side song is imbued with all the inventive, creepy, and trippy sounds that you might expect.  If you’re not intimately familiar with the original DSOTM album, you might even be hard-pressed to identify some of the tracks, particularly “On The Run”, which in the Lips’ hands becomes a distorted fun ride.  “Time” is another example; taking the ever-present radio-friendly track, the Stardeath and White Dwarfs make it utterly and completely experimental, with a nicely emotive vocal line.

Some of the best tracks include the covers of “Breathe” which draws you in with the Lips’ signature pulsating rhythms, and “The Great Gig in the Sky” featuring Henry Rollins and Peaches.  I’d be willing to bet that even the members of Pink Floyd think these come close to their own versions in skill and style.  “Us and Them” is also great with Coyne’s wavering falsetto vocals, and “Any Colour You Like” gives the original a vital update.  Probably the least effective cover is “Money”, only because the noise effects deviate so much without sufficient purpose that the song loses its effectiveness.  I’m still torn on “Brain Damage” simply because the original has a glorious melody and is really powerful; I’m not sure how I feel about the decision to lose that in favor of seizure-inducing distortion.  The Lips did preserve the beauty of “Eclipse” though.

Overall, The Flaming Lips version of DSOTM is essential listening for Lips fans as well as for Floyd fans who have an open mind and don’t subscribe to the belief that no good music has been released since the ’70s.  It’s not quite the type of album that you’d pop in the car for a sunny day’s drive, but it’s definitely good party music (if you have friends who like to talk about music), great for time spent outdoors at night, or just useful for erasing a constant stream of pop songs from your mind.  I wouldn’t bother comparing it too much to the original; they’re almost two entirely separate albums, and that makes listening to the Lips version a lot more fun.

Pick it up on iTunes for only $9.99.

One Comment leave one →
  1. seanningham permalink*
    January 7, 2010 4:17 pm

    I feel somewhat responsible for shattering AGMG’s NYE Freakout dreams, but I’m forever grateful for her foresight in downloading this album and toting along on our camping trip. It’s definitely not going to synch up with The Wizard of Oz, but hot damn it’s a fine album. By the second time I listened to it, I was hooked, and once again, blown away by the talent that seems to pour from the Flaming Lips.

    Now, as for their movie “Christmas on Mars” … well, that’s a taste that I might not acquire anytime soon …

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