A We-Imagwining of Stg. Pwepper’s

9ede7c75The Flaming Lips are at it again this time with the new release, With a Little Help From My Fwends, a bold reconstruction of The Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is not the first time, and certainly not that last, that The Beatles’ work has been covered. You can find their tunes being played by everything from punk bands, to jazz quartets, to a bunch of dads butchering “I Saw Her Standing There.” In the vein of butchering, consider the world of Beatles re-imagining as a charcuterie. Before, we’ve seen the crazy medley album from Cirque du Soleil which strung dozens of Beatles songs together in a way that felt unnatural. You would be expecting a section of a song to come up, but then suddenly the tune would transition in a weird, psychedelic way into an unrelated song. Then came the horrible travesty we call Across the Universe, a musical, stripping away everything that made a Beatles song awesome. Who in their right mind would take away the indispensible McCartney bass line in “Dear Prudence”?! The Flaming Lips’ With a Little Help From My Friends is no exception to the slaughter.

The Flaming Lips’ front man, Wayne Coyne, brings in some pretty impressive collaborators on this record; to name a few, Miley Cyrus, Tegan & Sara, My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, and Foxygen. However, the star-studded cast does, in no way, make up for the quality of the covers. The album, for the most part, sounds more or less the same for how many musicians took part in the project. The songs take on a sound scape characteristic that moves into sometimes terrifying moments of sonic space. If I went track by track, my comments would become repetitive and trite. Just imagine what makes a Beatles song so beautiful and catchy, and replace that with overbearing synth and disjointed vocals. Don’t get me wrong, this album might be great for some, but I’m coming at it from the viewpoint that covers should be completely original, yet pays respect to the artists who first rendered the composition. Here, the forms of the songs are essentially the same as the original. It’s not a reconstruction, it’s a job half done that left exposed wires.

To be fair, this was a huge undertaking by any caliber of artist. To try and recreate something so iconic and make it palatable to the millions of people who have this whole album ingrained in their bones? That requires some serious guts. And The Flaming Lips is written all over this record, so there is a mark of originality. I absolutely love their record At War With the Mystics. If you were to begin digging in to The Flaming Lips, start there.

Also, a portion of the sales of this record benefit the Bella Foundation, an Oklahom CIty-based group that puts veterinarians into the homes of low-income pet owners. Besides, the musicians on this record don’t need any more cash, and it makes you feel like you didn’t waste any money,a feeling, without the benefit you would have experienced. After listening to this record my diagnosis is to give directly to the Bella Foundation and stick with the original record, which, you probably already have.


Devan is a dj for KSSU, Listen.

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