Flaming Lips: With A Little Help From My Fwends

Psychedelic track-for-track tribute to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's

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The Flaming Lips return with various "Fwends" — including Miley Cyrus — to tackle the Beatles' Sgt Pepper opus. Is it like walking in a psychedelic wonderland, or merely a shambles? Here's what we learned...

It’s psychedelia 2.0 Back in ’67 Sgt Pepper’s… was the ultimate mind-frying technicolour chamois across the third eye of the psychedelic era. But after 47 years of Monty Python, Pink Floyd, Fraggle Rock, Julian Cope, Twin Peaks, Tim Burton and The Mighty Boosh, it now feels a little limited. So, having recently reworked Dark Side Of The Moon in their inimitably freakazoid fashion, Oklahoma psych legends The Flaming Lips have gathered a host of fellow deviants to re-imagine what sort of record The Beatles might have made had they had access to the vast array of designer bathtub narcotics the deep web has to offer.

It’s the most interesting thing Miley Cyrus has ever done. According to Gaganomics’ third law of Inverse Publicity Desperation, the more she’s exposes herself, licks hammers, pretends to get stoned onstage at award ceremonies and simulates sex with dwarves dressed as Tamagotchi, the less interesting Miley Cyrus becomes. So it’s refreshing to hear her hazy take on Macca’s bit on an electro-fied A Day In The Life or playing a lost, doe-eyed heroine battling the almighty space monster crashes of cataclysmic fuzz with which The Lips assault Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. And Coyne’s other fwends are just as brilliantly irreverent with their source material: Electric Wurms help turn Fixing A Hole into a spectral mood piece resembling the vengeful ghost of Pet Sounds, the charmingly-named Black Pus take With A Little Help From My Friends and hammer it into a squealing garage bawl that sounds like Roger Waters’ despot from In The Flesh getting drunk and coming on all ‘I fuggin’ love you maaaan’.

Still, there’s love and respect for the Fabs. You honestly feel The Lips are making a tribute as madcap and experimental as The Beatles might have made in 2014. So Lovely Rita becomes a deep-throb J-Pop laptop groove in the hands of SDWD and Tegan & Sara, complete with burping robot frogs. The Lips’ truly terrifying horrorcore Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite! sounds like the circus coming to Silent Hill. Getting Better is drenched in sinister synthetic sizzles capable of making you look aslant at a well-heeled classic. And When I’m Sixty-Four, however, gets annihilated by Daleks. When the album demands gentle handling, Coyne doesn’t skimp, giving Julianna Barwick the space to weave a sumptuous She’s Leaving Home over his ice cavern atmospherics and Wild West piano, and the Eastern tones of Within You Without You now warp the space/time continuum, rather gorgeously. The original mind-bender just cracked music a second time.

Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle.