Record Store Day started out as way to raise awareness and appreciation to our local and independently owned record stores and has quickly turned into a hysteria. Part of that hysteria is always The Flaming Lips, whom always make something for the flurry of Record Store Day only releases - the sure to sell-out collectibles and completely unnecessary one-offs.
This year, The Flaming Lips are culminating a series of collaborations they begun in 2011, when they released EPs with Neon Indian, Prefuse 73, and Lightning Bolt (check out my previous reviews of the Prefuse 73, Lightning Bolt, and Neon Indian EPs following the link). An extension of that program, The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends includes a track of each of those EPs and ten other tracks with collaborators as far ranging as Nick Cave to Ke$ha. Heady Fwends also maintains the graphic design elements of the earlier EPs: beautiful marbled vinyl and record sleeves printed with psychedelic details of sound waves.
Heady Fwends is a double LP and as I excitedly opened the packaging, I realized that instead of a nice gatefold sleeve as I was anticipating, the album is merely two LP jackets cellophaned into one package. No matter, but with the exorbitant $49.99 price tag I was expecting a bit more for my money. After admiring the beautiful marbled vinyl (Disc 1 a beautiful marigold, Disc 2 a psychedelic sunburst) and decoding which side was what I laid the record on the platter and gave it a spin.
All of the songs on Heady Fwends contain an outer-space fuzz and highlight The Flaming Lips at their weirdest. Most all everyone can do is try and keep up as best as they can, lending a real surprising fun to when unexpected collaborations like opening track "2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)" with Ke$ha and Biz Markie work out so well. And it's The Flaming Lips ability to push everyone out of their comfort level that makes this record so successful. In the next track "Ashes In The Air" The Flaming Lips have Bon Iver singing the strangest lyrics to be uttered out of the Wisconsin singer-songwriter's mouth ("we thought we could outrun them/but they had robot dogs").
Bands like Nick Cave and Lightning Bolt who are already on the weirder side of things seem to relish the chance to be so strange and bring forth some of the strongest cuts from the album. "You, Man? Human???" the Nick Cave track will make you wonder why these two artists haven't gotten together sooner - "I haven't been human for years, but you can touch me, if you can." Heady Fwends alternates between aggressive, ridiculous, slow and brooding, atmospheric, and whatever exists in the space between it all. Wayne Coyne capitalizes on what their collaborators bring to the table as musicians and then Flaming Lips the fuck out of it.
What really makes this record a joy is the attention to detail. Apart from my previous complaint about not being packaged as a gatefold LP, everything is considered. The collars of each record has a bizarre or hilarious message scrawled into the wax and, my favorite, each side ends with a repeating sample - Ke$ha endlessly looping, "Shit" on the end of side 1 for example. Heady Fwends has a wonderful pacing and sounds incredibly cohesive for a collaboration record. If you're a The Flaming Lips fan The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends is fantastic addition to the collection, but, unless you already have a penchant for weird music, might not be worth the high price tag.