The Flaming Lips: ‘With A Little Help From My Fwends’

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When first hearing about The Flaming Lips releasing a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover album, two emotions came over me: excitement and terror.

Not many would dare to dabble in the untouchable work of The Beatles, much less make an entire cover album; but if anyone were bold enough to try, it would be The Flaming Lips. After seeing the incredible live version of “Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds” at Bonnaroo, expectations were high.

With A Little Help From My Fwends features the same 13-track listing as its predecessor, down to the exact same order of songs. The album incorporates a modern, psychedelic revamp with the help of some of The Lips’ “fwends”, including My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, Phantogram, and Miley Cyrus.

The Flaming Lips take their psychedelic rock edge to the next level with this one, which you can expect to be just as trippy as its cover art.

With A Little Help From My Fwends begins with a ghostly take on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” featuring a pandemonium of uneven sounds that almost deafen the ear. However, at the chorus, a shining beam of light appears, and The Lips’ shift back to the classic melodic anthem.

The track continues to jump back and forth between the two variations, and it becomes apparent that this is the strategy for the entire album. If you aren’t tripping on psychedelic drugs, this album is sure to trick you in to thinking that you are.

Modern beats, overdubs, and weird distortions a plenty; the chaos and strangeness ultimately take away from the beautifully orchestrated masterpieces of Lennon and McCartney. The more popular hits seem to take the hardest falls. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!” are sure to turn your trip sour.

However, the album isn’t full of complete duds and is saved by the melodic voices of certain artists. Shockingly, Miley falls into that category.

Appearing on both “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “A Day in The Life,” Cyrus’ calm, subtle voice highlights the lyrical beauty of the songs.

Other album climaxes include “Getting Better” with Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish, and Morgan Delt, a peaceful, upbeat medley with a range of voice types.  Phantogram’s eerie touch adds a unique spin to “She’s Leaving Home”.

While the concept of With A Little Help From My Fwends featuring a range of successful artists is right on point, the album itself falls short.  Even though it has the Flaming Lips feel, the purpose of this album is lost and never to be found by the listener.

The acidic distortions bleed through what many consider to be one of the greatest albums of all time. With A Little Help From My Fwends layers The Beatles’ classic hits with grandiose sound effects that ultimately make it a failed, unoriginal attempt, instead of the tasteful and reminiscent reinvention many were hoping for.

Thankfully, The Flaming Lips might be able to use their exaggeratedly trippy covers as amazing live material, but I won’t be riding around to this with the windows down any time soon.

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