Wow! Just… wow. The Flaming Lips have got to be the only band with the stones to attempt something like this, and surely the only one with enough creativity and artistic integrity to pull it off.
For those who dug the sound of Embryonic – their obtuse, experimental double album released back in October – this will probably go down well (in fact if you’re one of these folks, it’s worth checking out even if you’re sick to death of The Dark Side of the Moon or were never a Floyd fan in the first place).
The Lips’ re-imagining of this almost canonical record produces an effect that is truly surreal. Like the original on an ephedrine bender and no sleep – the experience is more paranoid, more hallucinatory and generally more unsettling. The tone is set in the first few seconds when Henry Rollins (who’s been tapped to do all the speaking parts) says, “I’ve been mad for fucking years. Absolutely years … I’ve always been mad”
As with Embryonic, the aesthetic dept to early Ummagumma-era Floyd is palpable; thus in a neat stroke of irony it’s essentially an update of classical Floyd with an approach owing in part to pre-classical Floyd.
Did I mention it was loud? Yes, really loud. Loud and weird. The amplitude’s been cranked and the freak-out knob is at least at 11 - smearing the pristine production of the original into a chaotic mash of buzzing ambiance and crunchy distortion.
The chiming clocks at the beginning Time, for instance, have been replaced by digital, saw-wave alarms and a full on air-raid siren, and the song itself is inverted; with the intro being noisy and the verses/chorus being subdued.
Sex-obsessed Canadian shock-tress, Peaches, was a surprising though ultimately brilliant choice for That Great Gig in the Sky. The cultured elegance of the original tune has been replaced by a chugging, rhythm-heavy groove that’s more than a little rough around the edges. And Peaches’ vocals have been run through a guitar pedal, contorting her normally mid-coital moan into the tortured howl of some orgasmic BDSM fetish involving electrified clamps.
Money retains its original bluesiness, but Wayne Coyne’s vocals get the vocoder treatment and the result sounds like robotic alien lounge music that might fit in a David Lynch film or maybe a tavern on Tatooine. Us and Them sounds positively meditative compared to the rest of the madness.
Because Pink Floyd’s most celebrated record has become practically ubiquitous in the years since its release – you can hear it in the dentist office FFS –one could be forgiven for overlooking just how groundbreaking-ly weird it actually was. The Flaming Lips, having now put their own spin on it while staying true to the original spirit of weird, continue to do whatever the hell they feel like. And I continue to applaud.