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On paper, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends [originally a Record Store Day vinyl exclusive now issued on CD] doesn’t appear to be the next official chapter in the band’s ever-evolving history so much as a tribute to Wayne Coyne’s skills of diplomacy, like his hyperactive Twitter feed brought to life. The internet may have splintered the pop monoculture into myriad musical streams, but Heady Fwends provides as inclusive a congregation of the entire, circa-2012 under-to-overground spectrum as you can muster in a single album, with a guest list that spans top-40 stars (Ke$ha, Chris Martin) and noise-rock extremists (Lightning Bolt), anarchic avant guardians (Nick Cave, Yoko Ono) and chilled-out indie new-schoolers (Bon Iver, Neon Indian), electronic experimentalists (Prefuse 73) and hip-hop heroes-cum-children’s-television hosts (Biz Markie). Really, all you need to complete the picture is a Pauly D remix.
When the Lips started plotting these collaborations last year, they seemed like the latest in a growing line of guinea-pig projects that have kept the band busy since 2009’s Embryonic, click-bait novelties to be filed alongside the six-hour songs and gummy-skull-encased USB sticks. And while the first of these pairings to surface — EPs with Neon Indian, Lightning Bolt, Prefuse 73, and Yoko Ono, each represented here with a single track — yielded interesting moments of aesthetic intersection, their free-form nature didn’t exactly demand repeat listens. The songs on Heady Fwends are likewise rife with indicators of their hastily cobbled-together origins: flubbed vocal cues, songs obviously constructed via email file swaps (Ono’s “Do It!”), goofy lyrics that sound like they were written seconds before recording (“You always want/ To shave my balls/ That ain’t my trip”). But here’s the craziest thing about the whole project: This piecemeal patchwork of tracks hangs together amazingly well as a front-to-back album — to the point where, if the band had released this as the official follow-up to Embryonic, without the public stunt-casting campaign and Record Store Day tie-in, no Flaming Lips fan would feel short-changed.
If anything, Heady Fwends is arguably an even more wiggy experience than Embryonic, an album that marked the Lips’ return to brain-bending, fuzz-covered psychedelia, but was still very much beholden to the record-collector canon of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Can. — Pitchfork