“Does it worry you to be alone?”: The Flaming Lips – With A Little Help From My Fwends (2014)

I love The Flaming Lips.  I really do.  Folks may not know that about me… but they likely will, cause I tend to chat about how they are, quite literally, one of the finest bands on the planet.  I don’t care who disagrees, cause I know I’m right.  Sure, they’ve had some missteps along the way, but who hasn’t?  Some of their bonkersness and Wayne Coyne’s, eh, eccentricities can be a bit too much for people, but when you sit and listen to the music they create, there’s really no avoiding that they’re one of the best and most important acts that have ever existed.  It’s fact, man.  No use fighting it.

Today I have gathered you here to talk about the misunderstood Coyne & Co. led reconstruction of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With A Little Help From My Fwends.  It’s not really an album by The Flaming Lips, but more a collaborative effort that features the likes of J Mascis, Maynard James Keenan, and My Morning Jacket, as well as Moby and Miley Cyrus.  What starts off as a very interesting and sonically challenging album, soon runs out of steam.

The first 5 tracks are perfect.  It starts with a big bad fuzz machine reconstruction of the title track.  It’s abrasive.  Distorted.  My Morning Jacket and J Mascis coming together to create a racket.  There’s tape effects and distortion (and more distortion) and that guitar.  Yikes!

The first appearance from The Flaming Lips is in With A Little Help From My Friends and, well, it’s just wonderful.  Complete with auto-tune, off key shouting, and a hushed backing.  There’s a pulse throughout… some real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde shenanigans going on here and, well, it’s a moment of genuine wonder.  They pop up again with Miley Cyrus and Moby on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.  It’s dreamy and grand when the ‘chorus’ kicks in.  It’s like a cosmic dream.  The shuttle launching… Lucy admiring the diamonds like Dorothy admiring the colours and the Emerald Fields.  It’s brilliant.  And do you know what?  Miley Cyrus’ vocal is beautiful.

It’s followed by a brilliant and fuzzily bouncy take of Getting Better, (featuring Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish, and Morgan Delt).  But it’s Drozd’s and Coyne’s Electric Würms that grab the senses with Fixing A Hole.  Again, it’s dreamy… like I’m hallucinating.  There’s a chap and he’s singing by a fire in a ruined old house.  I can barely make him out, as I stand on the ground floor, but I can feel the warmth and the crackling of the flames… bending and echoing with his voice.

It goes off the boil for a bit.  Both She’s Leaving Home (one of my favourites from the original album) and Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! quite underwhelming – the beauty of the former is replaced with a lot of boom bip bop, and despite the return of Coyne & Co. on the latter, the influence of Maynard James Keenan is perhaps too great (it sounds a helluva lot like Puscifier to my ears).

Side B doesn’t get off to a great start.  Within You Without You retains much of the vibe of the original and, while it comes alive a little around the halfway point when the electronic shenanigans kick in, it’s unremarkable as a result (why not listen to the original?).  Likewise, When I’m Sixty Four and Lovely Rita fall a bit flat.  When I’m Sixty Four left me thinking “I’d have loved to have heard this one in the hands of Coyne & Co”… and then I realised that it’s not a track they’re absent from.  Which is a damn shame, cause I really would have loved to have heard what they’d have done with that one on their own.

The Zorch, Grace Potter, and Treasure Mammal take of Good Morning Good Morning is bombastic and there’s even a nice Beach Boys Roll Plymouth Rock vibe in there around 1:45.  Like I say, it’s bombastic and glorious.  It’s followed by the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), which seems to go on a tad too long.  There’s some faux electric Miles stuff going on and I guess it pays off around the 2:30 mark for, eh, 30 seconds or so… but then there’s another three minutes to get through… and getting through that today is tough.

But you know what?  A Day In The Life is just what we’re looking for.  A deviation from the original that also owes a whole lot to the original.  That break… and again Miley Cyrus’ turn is spot on.  Lazy… but not a case of ‘can’t be fucked’… she’s in that dream.  It’s effortless.  There’s a simplicity to the arrangement, too.   Allowing the song to just be the song, y’know?  It’s brilliant… and it proves that we needed more of the Lips.  Amazing.

So, The Flaming Lips 2014 is pretty good with plenty of flavour, even if it is a bit overcooked.  It’s a pass, for sure, but it could have been so much better had Wayne & Co. tackled this one without a little help from their fwends.

Much like the other releases in the Flaming Lips & Fwends series (you would call them a series, right?), the album was pressed in limited numbers and available only via indie stores. It’s a lovely translucent orange, housed within a glossy gatefold sleeve. No lyric sheet, but a   fairly whacky and heavy card inner sleeve.

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39 Comments Add yours

  1. jprobichaud says:

    I’ve never listened to this. Honestly, you might be right about them being a fine band but I don’t always get them. When I do, I really enjoy them though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Most of my friends are in the ‘I don’t get it’ camp. I’d recommend The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi, though… very accessible and highly enjoyable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jprobichaud says:

        I love those two albums, probably for the reasons you mentioned. I also enjoy a bit of War of the mystics. They are great live too. I just, I don’t know…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        At War With The Mystics is a favourite of mine… have you heard Clouds Taste Metallic? That might be right up your street…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. jprobichaud says:

        No. Not that one. Will have to investigate

        Liked by 1 person

      4. J. says:

        Let me know how you get on.

        Like

  2. mikeladano says:

    I give the Lips credit for helping Miley turn into a real artist. If they keep working with her, there’s gotta be something there.

    This sounds like a really interesting listen. Probably better than that Across the Universe soundtrack that we own and never listen to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      I think they provided her with an alternative voice, but it seems the record company aren’t that keen (the Dead Perez thing was angry and the voice of a young lass working through emotions and the likes, but it’s been in release limbo). But aye, there’s definitely growth as an artist, even if the Lips / Cyrus stuff has become a bit of an issue for both sets of fans.

      And yeah, this is an interesting listen. Especially if you’re a fan of Sgt. Pepper’s… though fans have been pretty critical.

      Like

  3. Paul Kerr says:

    not a huge fan, just got that Pink Robots album but this sounds intruiging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      While not their most challenging, Yoshimi’s great… one of my favourites.

      Even if this is not an essential Lips album, it’s definitely worth investigating,

      Like

  4. keepsmealive says:

    Sounds like it would’ve made a great EP. And that’s a REALLY pretty LP!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      When it’s great it’s really great, Aaron. Even if they’d pulled the great songs and made an EP of random Sgt. Pepper’s tracks, I’m not sure it would have quite worked. I think it just needed more of a consistent approach… definitely more of the Lips’ influence.

      But yeah, it’s a beautiful LP. Gotta love a beautiful LP.

      Like

      1. keepsmealive says:

        What are your thoughts on the Dark Side… Floyd thing with Rollins?

        Like

      2. J. says:

        I really like their Dark Side of the Moon. Really like it.

        Like

  5. hotfox63 says:

    The Beatles are a sacred cow to many but the lips milk it for all its worth…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Yeah, I’ve read quite a bit that suggests folk aren’t happy that they dared mess with The Beatles.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hotfox63 says:

        This album does NOT butcher “Sergeant Pepper. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. deKE says:

    Love the fact that you can go from Eat Em and Smile to this stuff J..
    That right their is a true music fan….
    Like reading about this kinda stuff that I have no idea aboot eh?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      I’m the same, man… I’ve gotten into a lot of stuff I’d never heard via post from you guys.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. deKE says:

        Thats good to hear I think! hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        It is, man… so much good music!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. deKE says:

        Well I know for a fact you will get a chuckle out of tomorrows post for sure!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. 1537 says:

    Sorry, I’m not a fan at all. Although I will concede that Yoshimi has a moment or two, but that’s as far as I can go. Isn’t Rollins on this one too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Yeah, I mind you saying that before. I was convinced you would have found something to dig in their stuff, too.

      Rollins is on their Dark Side of the Moon. Definitely worth checking out…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The only thing I know about the ‘Lips’ is that i met a guy who made a documentary ‘Jingle Bell Rocks’ and FL’s were in it. He laid a CD on CB. He had consumed a few cocktails. Nice guy. Give me one album to wet my whistle. I know thats hard but just say the first that comes to your head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      The Soft Bulletin. An all timer. I love that album from start to finish. Unconditionally. It’s been by my side for nearly 20 years.

      Jingle Bell Rocks sounds like the kinda thing I need to check out. I’m away to Google it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Noting that right now. Thanks.
        The filmmaker was a guy named Mitch, I think. I enjoyed his film. I met him at a film festival.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. stephen1001 says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be a critical re-evaluation of Miley Cyrus at some point. I’m not too familiar with her but from the stuff I’ve heard (including on these clips), she can sing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      I don’t think I’d be too surprised, either. I haven’t ever listened to anything of hers, but it’s been clear from the collaborations that she can sing. In fact, her appearance on that Bill Murray Christmas thing proved that, too.

      Dead Petz was / is quite something and she seems like a pretty good lass, too (certainly nothing like Bieber). I guess the biggest part is winning folk over… then folks will say “aye, let’s actually revisit the music… not the image”.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Do love the Lips, but not so much this one. Even though I love the Easy Star version of Dark Side, part of me doesn’t see the point of covering an album, unless it is something a bit special like a charity live gig.

    Still, perhaps it might be a gateway album for those not well versed in the Beatles, eh Jim?
    😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      There’s not much to keep the interest here, unfortunately. Still, when it’s good, I think it’s pretty inspired. Unfortunately, it’s just not often inspired. Perhaps it would have been different had it not been a Fwends album. Maybe.

      And yeah, these kinda things can be a gateway… allows you to listen to something with new ears, or discover something you never gave a thought about. Though they have tackled very famous albums… nothing obscure.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Don’t worry, their next release is a reconstruction of How The Gods Kill.

      Like

      1. Hopefully the gods will kill them before that ever happens!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Jay says:

    I like them too, possibly mostly because the name of the band just really speaks to me. I had this album in my car when it first came out but it got out of rotation and hasn’t really made a reappearance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      They’re a great band… Wayne Coyne loves dogs, so maybe that would score some bonus points?
      Anyhoo, I can see how this one falls of the radar for folk. It’s a challenging album… but doesn’t stand as tall as the Lips’ non-Fwends output.

      Like

  12. DanicaPiche says:

    I come bearing gifts! I’ve nominated you for The Sunshine Blogger Award, here: https://danicapiche.com/2018/07/05/the-sunshine-blogger-award-thank-you/
    There’s no obligation at all so if you’re unable to participate please accept this gesture of appreciation and hope that a new reader or two discover your blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks, Danica!

      Like

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