It’s great that the Flaming Lips, 30 years into their life as a band, can still surprise not only their fan base but, presumably, their record label Warner Bros., with such a strange, tripped-out excursion as the Oklahoma City band’s new album, "Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends." In fact, on this, their 14th studio album, they go deeper and further down the experimental abyss on a full-length album than they have in a decade, and seem to have busted out a bunch of distortion pedals that they haven’t used since they were discovering LSD and making seminal (if youthfully naive), psychedelic punk masterpieces like "Hear It Is." So kudos to Wayne Coyne and company for their spirit of creative abandon.
But said abandon on "Heady Fwends" is often of the reckless kind, the sound of a band and a bunch of heady friends indulging themselves in the studio. The aforementioned "Heady Fwends" include, among others, Bon Iver, Kesha, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Yoko Ono, Erykah Badu, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Nick Cave and others, each of whom offers vocals on select tracks.
The Lips have long been the purveyors of beautiful chaos, the kind that harnessed Beatle-esque melodies and teamed it with distortion. For its part, "Heady Fwends" often sounds like the last minute of "Helter Skelter," right before Ringo Starr screams, "I’ve got blisters on me fingers!"