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Album Review: The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs With Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon

on January 04, 2010, 3:15pm

This project came as no great surprise to fans of either The Flaming Lips or Pink Floyd. Debates over Floyd’s original ’73 landmark record or this extremely ambitious re-envisioning is moot — purists will bitch, progressives will praise, the neutral will call “apples and oranges” while salivating over reason to make Dark Side of the Moon a relevant coffee shop conversation, yet again.

Having heard and said all there is to hear and say about it, Dark Side of the Moon represents a breakthrough in production value and experimentation, with the added advantage of being indelibly stamped by simple, iconic album art. This record operated under a “less is more” mentality, and in turn, helped pave the way for more adventurous fare to come later. So, when The Flaming Lips embarked on a whimsical quest of fuzz and frenzy to cover DSOTM in its entirety, we do not consider it a slight against Pink Floyd, but a respectable “balls out” tribute. Even in profiting on the coattails of Embryonic, one listen to Coyne and company’s rendition will speak volumes of the love behind the craft, the respect behind the recreation.

Note that this is not solely a Flaming Lips credit; to make everything spot on, Coyne enlisted multi-talented mad man Henry Rollins to recite the original commentary spliced amongst DSOTM‘s cacophony of audio tracks, while Coyne’s nephew’s atmospherically epic band, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, participated musically on over half of the reworked songs. Great measures were seen through to give this undertaking both a means to breathe imaginatively and a proper amount of dedication to the source material — initial scope included. This is “re-imagining” to the letter; while careful to remain in tune with the base lines, The Flaming Lips have sculpted an album that really stands on its own in this act’s 13-strong catalog.

There is techno-pop and pure industrial accoutrement across the board, colors and sounds you can almost taste. Opener “Speak To Me/Breathe” marks a slow build of heartbeats and evil laughter punctuated by some “philosophical everyman” (portrayed now by our own Mr. Rollins); this new rendition reshapes itself with distorted modern stoner rock melted by swinging sixties swagger. “On The Run” displays a dark dance party laced with acid, ending on a series of alarms, coughs, and fire engine sirens that segue into “Time/Breathe (Reprise)”, Reznor style, courtesy of Stardeath. As a cover, “Time” is still as haunting in the early stages, with explosive awakening sans clocks and ringers, the extended guitar crescendo, and finally a quiet fragility of vocals accompanied by tambourine; after the “Breathe” reprisal, we come to DSOTM‘s prize piece — “The Great Gig In The Sky”, where Peaches gets to shine (and we finally get to draw some parallels).

Peaches earned the honor of performing singer Clare Torry’s famous non-lexical vocal number on “The Great Gig In The Sky”, and unbelievably (almost frighteningly) nails it. The Richard Wright composition is phenomenal as a standalone instrumental, but Torry — upon instructions to “think about death” and basically just go with it — had laid down a piercing track that could rival some of the best soul and jazz known to man. Via The Flaming Lips, “The Great Gig In The Sky” is flipped on end in a fashion akin to Revolting Cocks’ “RevColution Medley”, becoming a crossbreed of discotheques and nightmare serum; Peaches becomes less of a vocalist here and more of a tragic, post-millennium Earth goddess mourning the death of innocence, encompassing the new age “Great Gig” with appropriate tonal accents to set this maddening dance floor aflame.

After an excruciating Microsoft Sam impression on “Money”, “Us And Them” clocks in at just under eight minutes to become the prolonged intermission — a gentle ocean of subtle static, peaceful negotiable lyrics, and chiming keyboards suddenly broken apart at the end by “Any Colour You Like”. “Any Colour You Like” was already the most upbeat song on DSOTM besides “Money”, though not quite as epic as closer “Eclipse”, but here it is taken to a straight-up 70′s rock level and feels like it would make a spectacular live token to throw in at future Flaming Lips or Stardeath gigs. In its final moments, “Brain Damage” remains the lamenting, disturbing lullaby for the indisputable insanity within us all, whereas “Eclipse” brings the listener full circle with garage rock and choral hums.

Frankly, The Flaming Lips and all others involved have crafted a visceral take on DSOTM with care, resorting to high-definition helplessness and lunacy by fully embracing its very fringes ten-fold. The idea of a tribute album is not a new one for Pink Floyd, but these particular DSOTM sessions here with Lips, White Dwarfs, Peaches, and Rollins are worlds apart from a five buck cheapo orchestrated by some estranged studio acoustic player in the local FYE bargain bin.

Despite exchanging accentuated blues and simplicity for loudness and eletronica, this cover transcends genres and gives us new eyes to gaze upon the glory that has been and always will be Dark Side of the Moon.

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