The thing about pitching an album as “It’s ‘Sgt Pepper…’ but on acid” is that ‘Sgt Pepper…’ is already very much “on acid”, emerging as it did from The Beatles’ most psychedelic period. Still, if there’s one band in the world willing to go the extra tab, it’s The Flaming Lips. They are, after all, the people whose past releases include a USB stick buried inside a sweet gummy skull, and ‘Zaireeka’ – a record that could only be properly listened to by rigging up four stereo systems in the same room. That they’re still pulling off high-concept weirdness 30 years into their career is testament to the fact that they remain a bunch of fearless freaks. But while you can applaud the audacity of covering one of the Fab Four’s most famous works, the question remains: will it be an unlistenable mess?
But The Flaming Lips aren’t just any old band of drug casualties with a crazy dream – what comes across here is that they’re massive Beatles fans who want to pay tribute to the genius of the original recordings by means of playful deconstruction. They’ve roped in their weirdest friends to help them do it, too. If you’ve ever thought that what the ‘Sgt Pepper…’ title track needed was a stupendous guitar solo from Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, then you’re in luck.
The first truly breathtaking moment comes three tracks in, when a gorgeous, woozy voice starts intoning ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’. It sends you scrabbling for the contributors’ list: whose voice is that? It’s Miley Cyrus – 2014’s favourite enfant terrible steals the show both here and on closer ‘A Day In The Life’. The 21-year-old is one of a revolving cast of guest appearances; over the course of the album’s 13 tracks, Wayne Coyne takes a back seat to the likes of Tool Maynard’s James Keenan, Tegan & Sara and MGMT. The record is unified by the sheer joy that runs through it – no mean feat when it features so many different voices. The result is a delightful tribute to The Beatles and a record that has made so many turn on, tune in and drop out.
- Director: The Flaming Lips
- Record label: Bella Union
- Release date: 03 Nov, 2014