Former Disney star enlists The Flaming Lips and Ariel Pink on a thrillingly weird surprise album
“The only laws I obey are the ones I’m makin’ for myself”, Miley Cyrus sings on ‘Slab Of Butter (Scorpion)’, a psychedelic sex jam that arrives halfway into her sprawling 92-minute fifth album. While the 22-year-old singer hasn’t declared her LA pad its own sovereign state (yet), in music industry terms it’s hard to deny she’s writing her own rulebook. As she finished hosting the MTV VMAs on Sunday, Cyrus announced she’d just dropped this surprise new album – which was made for $50,000 and is separate from her deal with RCA – for free. It’s a luxury this chart-topping former Disney star knows she can afford. “You know, I’ve made my money. If no one buys my album, cool,” she told W magazine last year.
But what’s truly audacious about ‘Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz’ is the music itself. Though 2013’s hip-hop-influenced ‘Bangerz’ marked a creative break away from her old teen-friendly sound, it was designed with the charts in mind. Executive produced by Cyrus herself, this woozy record makes no concessions whatsoever to radio playlists: it’s a weed-fuelled leap into a psychedelic rabbit hole heavily inspired by Cyrus’s creative bond with Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips. Cyrus sang on two tracks from the Lips’ 2014 Beatles covers album ‘With A Little Help From My Fwends’, and the Oklahoma City band return the favour with interest by co-producing 14 of the 23 tracks here. “I am 100 per cent in love with Wayne, and Wayne is in love with me, but it’s nothing sexual in any way. That would be the grossest,” Cyrus explained shortly before ‘…Dead Petz’ dropped.
The results are as thrillingly unfiltered as Cyrus herself, who’s recently come out as pansexual and couldn’t resist proclaiming that she wants to have sex with Joan Jett while inducting the Runaways legend into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cyrus justifies the album’s title with ‘Floyd Song (Sunrise)’, a sleepy eulogy to her dead dog, and ‘Pablow The Blowfish’, a tear-stained ballad about a late resident of her home aquarium. She channels Peaches on a sapphic sex jam called ‘Bang Me Box’, recruits Ariel Pink for backing vocals on an eerie ballad laden with bell chimes called ‘Tiger Dreams’, and comes off like a horror movie Lana Del Rey on the opulent pop of ‘Cyrus Skies’. Grace Jones, David Bowie and “queen emoji” all get namechecks. ‘Milky Milky Milk’ is a spacey, jaw-dropping pop tune about sucking on nipples that features the couplet: “Your lips get me so wet / While I’m singing all the verses from the Tibetan Book of the Dead”. ‘BB Talk’ is an even more jaw-dropping hip-hop-flavoured song about an over-affectionate boyfriend that features the refrain: “Fuck me, so you stop baby talking”. Sure, this album is long, indulgent and occasionally cringeworthy – ‘Fuckin’ Fucked Up’ is precisely as throwaway as its title suggests – but aside from a couple of dull existential ballads towards the end, Cyrus keeps you gripped with her psych-pop anti-bangerz celebrating peace, love, sex, weed and masturbation.
Though the production ranges from trippy to scuzzy and some tracks can sound like Miley Cyrus fronting The Flaming Lips, this doesn’t feel like a contrived bid for credibility. Because there are moments that recall Cyrus’s earlier work – ‘1 Sun’ showcases her eco credentials like 2008’s ‘Wake Up America’; ‘I Get So Scared’ is a bluesy flipside to ‘Bangerz’ standout ‘Adore You’ – it simply feels like a wonderfully unexpected progression. ‘Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz’ is surely the weirdest album made by a massive pop star in recent memory, but more impressively, it’s also an essential listen.
Director: Miley Cyrus, The Flaming Lips, Mike Will Made It, Oren Yoel
Record label: Smiley Miley Inc/ Lovely Sorts of Death
Release date: 30 Aug, 2015