The Flaming Lips would love to turn you on all over again...
They've re-imagined Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. They teased some of us with King Crimson's In The Court of the Crimson King*. And now the Flaming Lips and their band of merry "fwends" have brought us a new re-make/re-model of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the form of With A Little Help From My Fwends, recently released on Warner Brothers records.
I have to point out that this album also has a really good cause behind it: A portion of the proceeds of sales from each album will be donated to the Bella Foundation SPCA pet adoption organization in Oklahoma (where the Flaming Lips are from). So that is a very cool thing.
Musically, this initially appeared to be a tough one for me to review and probably was a tougher one for the band to approach. I mean, on the Pink Floyd rethink they were working with an album full of songs that were constructed as launchpads for madness and free-form jamming, so wacking that out a bit (and they did!) worked for me. I haven't even heard the King Crimson collaboration project (*it was a ridiculously limited edition release for some reason) but that original album it honored -- In The Court of The Crimson King -- was also a recording of sonic challenge boasting song structures that allow room for extrapolation and exploration.
So I could grok that.
The Beatles' Pepper on the other hand, as cutting-edge as it was when released in 1967, is still essentially very much a tidy Beatle record, a pristine pop recording of concise song structures with verses, choruses and bridge sections. Heck, even the most freeform section of the album -- the wild and seemingly free-form symphonic scream during "A Day In The Life" was formed around a very precise section (I think it was 24 bars of music) that the Beatles knew had to be filled with something fantastic.
Anyhow, here we are in 2014 and the Flaming Lips are around roughly three times as long as the Beatles' lifespan as a band, and they are now paying tribute to our fab heroes from Liverpool with this spiffy new assemblage.
Reviewer-ly wise, I'm happy to report that this pressing is clean and mostly quiet, perfectly centered and issued on pretty darn gorgeous clear fluorescent creamsicle orange colored vinyl. The sound is quite good... but you audiophiles out there reading this, please don't really expect this to sound anything like the Beatles album or even the Lips' take on Dark Side of the Moon.
This is trippier sh*t, quite frankly... and goodly portions of the recording benefit from sliced-and-diced digital editing and special effects which are very much en vogue today. So, DO expect to hear many things glitchy and gritty on this recording, because it is intentionally not trying to sound anything like the Beatles.
And all things considered, I'm diggin' it because it forces you to throw out your preconceptions of what this music should sound like and that ultimately is a good thing.
I recognize that throwing preconception out the window isn't easy thing to do for an album like Sgt. Pepper, a recording that is A) widely considered to be in many ways near perfect, and B) deeply ingrained in the collective mindset of a generation or two.