The Flaming Lips The Flaming LipsAnd Stardeath And White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins And Peaches Doing Dark Side Of The Moon
Some years ago now, Wayne Coyne, leader of The Flaming Lips, with that fragile, melodic voice that we all know, said that the musical instrument he really played was the recording studio. His The Flaming Lips, obviously, are the masters of sound cliff-hangers in musical experimentation (both in production and in sound), so we already know that Mr. Coyne really does have a great time behind the sound board, and we fortunate consumers later enjoy the chromatic avalanche present in almost all of his work. His most smoking brews, in 1997, introduced us to that amorphous, throbbing being, “Zaireeka,” and we have practically just now discovered that the being in question was an embryo ( “Embryonic”, 2009) who likes distortions, basses with loudspeakers, and undulating synthesisers. And having reached this point, after shaking the hand of the mainstream world with “The Soft Bulletin” (1999) and having had a recording career with its ups and downs, its glory days and more radical experiments, having lived between the foreseeable and the unforeseeable and come back with the aforementioned “Embryonic,” coming in through the front door when they really needed to, they now bring us this album with the wild title, “The Flaming Lips And Stardeath And White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins And Peaches Doing Dark Side Of The Moon.” One might expect that this group would re-edit the sound of the previous album before making a fetish visit to Pink Floyd which, at least at first glance, should have taken place earlier or later, but not now. I mean that if you are going to do a revision of a major classic like “The Dark Side Of The Moon” (1973), you do it so that your excess energy typical of brazen youth won’t go to waste, or you do it from the perspective of the life experience that comes with age. In either case—ta-dah! You have a cult work. But it seems like these “flaming lips” have planned The Great Cover as a transition album, stuck to “Embryonic” in time and space; more than listening to The Flaming Lips cover Pink Floyd, we see them doing it (or trying to), even though they use the collaborations of Stardeath And White Dwarfs, Henry Rollins’ flood of words, and the porno voice of Merrill Beth Nisker (a.k.a. Peaches). However it came to be, they have put themselves in front of Pink Floyd, their fetish band, and in front of an album that is also burnt into the invisible retina of our ears. And if “The Dark Side…” is a great album, it is so for various reasons. And if this “(blah blah blah) ...Doing Dark Side Of The Moon” isn’t a great album, at least we have to give them credit for having dared to try it. From the very beginning of “Speak To Me,” the sweet, gentle production is replaced by the underground world of the Flaming plus a guitar distortion, which isn’t bad; I mean, it’s a typically Coyne declaration of intentions: “we’re going to do whatever we feel like without being gagged or bound.” But with “On The Run,” which comes just afterwards, they give a twist of the screw to what seemed to be a terror film screensaver, and they interpret it like a discotheque “Blade Runner.” “Time / Breath” was somewhat retro, and cherished, with all of those clocks ticking that get lost in the mechanism of loop-type breathing in the reprise of “Breath” that they have made up. Something similar happens with the Total Song “Money”— conceptually, disguising it as a robot is good, but listening to the 1973 version, we thought we were catching a glimpse of the anxiety of a gambling addict looking at the skyline of the city of Las Vegas. And the thing is that in terms of production, a group has to think ahead and try to balance out their good and bad points with those of the album being covered. We have to say that in the case of average albums, certain tics wouldn’t be noticed, but when it comes to masterpieces, any lack of inventiveness can work against you, and even destroy you. In this work, there’s some of everything. They do it right in some cases (in “Any Colour You Like” the space boogie gives an unusual vitality to the original that makes us rediscover it again) and fail in others (the lack of sound imagination in “Brain Damage,” or focusing only on the atmosphere of “Us And Them,” leaving out the little crescendos that there were before). But what's for certain is that Coyne’s voice (and his interpretation), however he does it, is a harp played by archangels that will always fly over The Flaming Lips, and which improves their reflection of the past (for example: “Time / Breath” is a pure and blinding session of hypnosis, vocally speaking). Definitively, it was foreseeable that this would happen. Some time ago, the renowned science fiction writer Isaac Asimov refused to take an IQ test because he said that it was a no-win situation. If he showed that he didn’t have a high IQ, the myth of his intellectual capacity would flop like a fat guy into a pool. And if he was a genius, he had nothing to gain, because it was what was expected of him. In the case of the album at hand, it was to be expected that The Flaming Lips would set aside their pretensions of rubbing elbows with Pink Floyd’s great work to simply do a rereading of the heads of progressive, psychedelic philosophy, applying the sound that they know how to make. But they have to learn that there are times when perfection is to look at or listen to, but not to touch. This is what happens with the lack of humanity of “Money,” or with “The Great Gig In The Sky,” an unsurpassable song where Merrill/Peaches masturbates live, making us forget what is really important: the sensitivity and soul aroma behind it.