The Flaming Lips trip on CD and in 24 hours of concerts after the release of The Flaming Lips and the Heady Fwends.
In a year or so that has seen the Flaming Lips record a 24-hour-long song and encase a USB-drive of music in a gummi skull, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends makes perfect sense. The new album isn't a new Flaming Lips album as much as a documentation of the last year's safari into their cerebral cortex, joined by fellow freaks Lightning Bolt, Jim James, Bon Iver, Ke$ha, Nick Cave, Neon Indian and more. Trippy is the album's default mode as every sound is dressed with extra texture, whether its the laptop click percussion on "Is David Bowie Dying?" or the layers of echo on Erykah Badu's voice as she tries to help "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" escape its murky atmosphere and soar.
The most perfect pairings are "Helping the Retarded to Know God" with Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and "Do It" with Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band. Adding Sharpe and company to a song about spiritual self-sufficiency makes sense for both bands, and the extra voices gives the song scope; it's not just Wayne Coyne or The Flaming Lips' private obsession. Every additional voice singing, "I'm trying to know you" is echoing and validating the song's sense of yearning. Yoko Ono appears on "Do It!" as a sample, shouting the title phrase. It seems like a shortcut, but it's also a reminder of the way she's a touchstone for the experimental rock world, someone so significant that invoking her seems more respectful than collaborating with her.
Today, the Flaming Lips start their efforts to promote The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends with their effort to knock Jay-Z out of the Guinness Book of World Records as the artist who has performed the most shows in a 24-hour period. They have eight shows lined up starting tonight in Memphis and finishing Thursday at the House of Blues. The shows are all sold out, but they'll be streamed online at the O Music Awards. The video below mentions some of the band's old or new fwends that will join them onstage, and I've seen a few other intriguing possibilities mentioned for the New Orleans show.
I'm on the road covering the show for Spin.com; for updates from the tour, follow me on Twitter at @MySpiltMilk and on Facebook at facebook.com/MySpiltMilk.