The Flaming Lips have returned with another tribute album, this time taking on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band. In putting the album together they have recruited an all star line up of guest musicians including J Mascis, Maynard James Keenan, Moby, Miley Cyrus, and Tegan and Sara. As was the case with their tribute to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, a tribute album like this is a very brave thing to do and one that will get critics no matter how creative it is. However, in this instance, the Flaming Lips have pretty much destroyed the album like vandals to a perfectly good car. There is an overuse of sound effects to the extent that they end up sounding confused, irritating, and in some parts, simply unlistenable!
The album opens with an experimental electronic interpretation of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Band. Before too long it becomes too experimental with everything turning into a distorted mess. J Masics provides a guitar solo, however, with it being played 5 times louder than anything else is loses whatever it may have had to offer and just sounds like noise. With A Little Help From My Friends doesn’t see things improve. Instead it seems like the band have 4 or 5 ideas on how to cover the song, couldn’t decide which one to pick and decided to just play them all together. As a result it is all quite disjointed and irritating. Lucy in the sky with Diamonds starts promisingly enough with Miley Cyrus providing strong and beautiful vocals, however this becomes unraveled when it comes to the chorus, as it all turns into a big ball of distortion that sounds like they just turned the amps up too much. Had the chorus been toned down, it would have become quite a decent cover version, but has it stands, it’s quite a mess!
Getting Better is one of the less bad tracks on the album. With the distortion pulled back a little the ideas start to come out a little more with the mix between the Beatles original song and the Flaming Lips creative interpretation comes out quite a bit. Sadly there are too many parts of the song that are too loud or too distorted that what could have been a beautiful song becomes just marginally satisfactory. Being for the benefit of Mr Kite is an interesting experimental interpretation with curious echoing sounds creating a eerie spacey atmosphere.
When I’m 64 focuses too much on the spacey effects that it completely forgets any melody. As a result it all just sounds rather weird and before long irritating. On the other hand Good morning, good morning is simply painful to listen to. Sounding like a bad techo remix of the original that is being played at maximum volume while in the bathroom.
Finally, A day in the life is the least worst cover on the album. The Lennon parts are fairly faithful to the original, while the McCartney part have Miley Cyrus singing with a trip-hoppy backdrop. This makes for an okay ending to what was a miserable failure of an album.
Granted cover albums like this are always going to be a hard thing to do and no matter how hard you try there will always be some fans of the original that will hate it. However with the creative flair that the Flaming Lips usually have and with the star studded line up they had to help them out, one would think that, of all people, they could produce something good. Instead they have put out what is quite possibly the worse tribute album ever (yes it’s even worse than the Sgt Pepper soundtrack album), and in some parts the most listenable music around. If you liked the original album from the Beatles, don’t listen to this, you’ll be disappointed if not appalled!