The Flaming Lips – Dark Side of the Moon

The Flaming Lips - Dark Side of the MoonThe Flaming LipsDark Side Of The Moon (Warner Bros)

Have you heard about the off-Broadway performance of Romeo and Juliet that forgoes the actual work of Shakespeare in favor of a bunch of strewn together narratives, lifted from vague recollections of the play?

The Flaming Lips (along with Wayne’s nephew’s band Stardeath and the White Dwarfs) have seemingly taken a similar approach to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon and channeled that landmark effort into a vaguely reminiscent cover album. It’s a pairing that surely will grab the attention of fans of either band with supporters of the Lips’ unique blend of weirdness probably getting the award for higher tolerance.

“Why?” is perhaps the biggest question resulting from this project, but then again, why release an album that requires four separate cd players just to hear the complete songs? Why spend the good part of a decade making a charming-but-frustrating science fiction Christmas movie? And speaking of Christmas, why release a “Silver Trembling Fetus” Christmas ornament?

Clearly, reasons why are an afterthought of the Lips’—or specifically, Wayne Coyne’s—thought process, which is precisely why the band has remained a relevant force in today’s music. Remember all of those great ideas you came up with while you were stoned? Well, Coyne delivered on his, even if some fail under the weight of their own nonsense.

“But I tried, didn’t I, god damn it,” as McMurphy says in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. “At least I did that.”

The Floyd Freaks are rolling in their grave, placing the original Dark Side up there with the Sistine Chapel, equating the Lips’ reworking as vandalism. They see each bit of distortion, every “off” arrangement, and each sonic “mistake” as a flaw, only recognizing the pristine beauty of Alan Parsons’ mix as a gold standard.

But what if the Lips tried to emulate such precision? I think that those cries of “Judas!” would be just as loud and even a few vocal fans of the Lips like myself would also be troubled. A few years back, the Lips did a note-perfect rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was more notable for its facsimile than for its performance.

Not so here, the Flaming Lips treat Dark Side of the Moon like a stoned retelling in your older brother’s bedroom.

Taken in that context, the effort is actually better than it needs to be. The band(s) consider Pink Floyd’s version was in Billboard’s album charts for like a millennium, to the point where the rag changed the rules midstream. The Lips have considered the possibility that you’ve heard the album a few times and—thankfully—ripped the thing through the shredder. “Breathe” is fueled by a two note Suicide bass and David Gilmore’s soothing slide guitar is replaced with feedback. Floyd’s primitive sequencing on “On The Run” is reduced to a Krautrock beat and a nifty guitar sequence. “Money” relies on tour-mates Black Moth Super Rainbow‘s vocoder and a cheap drum machine. It isn’t until “Us and Them” where the similarities begin to reveal themselves—but only slightly. The chord patterns may sound familiar, but it’s clear that the Lips were on a mission to pay homage here instead of playing connect the dots.

What’s telling is how accurate the band is in getting Dark Side‘s crazy quotes—monotonously recited by Henry Rollins—at precisely the same moments as the original. They replace Clare Torry’s octave-bending scales with Peaches’ distorted wails.

All of it, from the originality of the reinterpretations to the barely trying facsimiles, is a hoot. It’s a blast to hear in a social gathering and it’s a joy to examine in the confines of your inner ear headphones.

But make no bones about it, Dark Side of the Moon like its inspiration is a real attempt at taking rock to a higher ideal. This isn’t some thrown together mockery that’s as disposable as the kilobytes holding it together. Only the delivery method (iTunes exclusively) makes the project seem half-hearted, which is somewhat disheartening.

Both efforts are genuine in their desire to challenge the listener and themselves, and both of them deserve to be heard in the format that it was designed for. Since only one of them is and since one has over thirty-five years of permanently embedding itself into the DNA of classic rock, the Lips have an uphill battle with those listeners content with the original.

For anyone who can try to imagine a bizarro world where Dark Side is a clean slate of endless possibilities, the Flaming Lips’ version is as challenging as the one that inspired it.

Video: The Flaming Lips – “Breathe”

The Flaming Lips - Dark Side of the Moon

Flaming Lips: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Pink Floyd: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

13 thoughts on “The Flaming Lips – Dark Side of the Moon”

  1. Full disclosure – I used to be a Floyd Fanatic. Charter member of the Echoes email discussion group, the whole enchilada. Total Floyd nerd. If you asked me Syd Barrett’s birth name, I’d actually know it without having to Google it.

    This Flaming Lips project sounds really cool. I can appreciate that they tried to put a different spin on the music (assuming that there’s some basal resemblance to the original). The original was such a cool record, but the ensuing 3+ decades have surely generated some new musical directions, ripe for exploration.

    Once upon a time, a really earnest Christian Rock band (is there any other kind?) sent me a copy of their record in exchange for publicizing it on my Floyd fan website. It was called “Bright Side of the Sun”. They tried to take the disenchanted misery of the original record and transmogrify it into some kind of “Up With Jebus” happy happy joy joy abomination. It was really fucking horrible. I mean, it was just so chock full of glee and positivity that I wanted to kill myself in the ugliest manner possible. I think I eventually traded the CD to someone for a beer. A draft beer. A WARM draft beer.

    I’m not as big of a fan of the Lips as I was of Floyd, but I did have “Thank you Jack White For the Fibreoptic Jesus That You Gave Me” stuck in my head at work last week. The Flaming Lips seem to teeter-totter on a similar weird-yet-accessible tipping point as the Floyd did back in the early 1970s. Anywho, I will make a point of searching out this Flaming Lips version and see whassup. Thanks for the article, Todd! Great work, as usual.

  2. I downloaded it last night and will check it out today. I just wanted to point out the remarkable amount of venom in the iTunes “rate this” section…there appear to be more ratings than actual downloads, and most of them are the lowest possible score.

  3. I haven’t even listened to it or the band bu I know it’s shit. I will tell everyone to not buy or download it. LED ZEPPELIN FOR LIFE

  4. Thank you, Kevin, for that insightful critical analysis. Now I know better than to listen to one of today’s most interesting band’s reinterpreting an acknowledged classic after more than 30 years of ad nauseum play on FM rock stations and from the bedrooms of adolescent stoners. And why? As Kevin so incisively notes, Led Zeppelin for life! That really says it all.

  5. I like listening to In Through The Out Door and kicking my girlfriend’s puppy. I haven’t tried Flaming Hips though. Maybe I’ll listen to them and start peeing in her fish tank.

  6. Nice Information! I personally really like your content. This is a great website. I will make sure that I stop back again!.

  7. HAH. This is my favorite name of any Glono poster ever. “Gifts for Dad”, you are one subtle mofo, and I can’t wait to chat with you about music and… and…. hmmm. There’s got to be Something else to talk about too… well, if you think of anything let me know. I’m in for music talk though. TTYL!

  8. So you know what? This was okay. It has some inspired moments, particularly at the beginnings of songs, and of course the rambling version of Breathe is great. But…a lot of it does actually stick closely to the original, and long sections of it are close enough that I wouldn’t call them indistinguishable… but they’re not significantly different either.

    I would have rather heard something like the Dirty Projectors guy did…he tried to reenact Black Flag’s “Damaged” without having listened to it for 15 years.

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