When The Flaming Lips announced that they were working on covering The Beatles in the form of a full length LP, my heart sank. And once it was finally made available to listen, my heart sank even further. Having released the much talked about With A Little Help From My Fwends, a cover album of the groundbreaking Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, critics and fans alike seem to be at a divide. Whilst some have blessed it with favourable seven-to-eight-star reviews, others have been more damning of the record.
The Flaming Lips’ cover of ‘A Day In The Life’, arguably one of the Beatles’ greatest tracks, on Conan O’Brien has done nothing to shove me into the direction of the nearest record store. The Flaming Lips donned an evergreen of psychedelic tones and magical harmonies, all whilst crooning under an equally LSD-inspired stage decor. Frontman Wayne Coyne was draped in a long silver coat, as actors and actresses danced underneath the metallic veil.
And underneath said coat sprang tabloid favourite Miley Cyrus, who added a perplexing impression of Paul McCartney in a tinsel wig to the mix. Cyrus, who features heavily on With A Little Help From My Fwends, seems to be a bit of a niche in the indie market of late. Alt-J successfully sampled her on the single ‘Hunger Of The Pine,’ but the Cyrus card has fallen into danger zone of being overused. A subtle sample is one thing, but a collaborative cover of one of the most critically acclaimed records of all time is a whole different can of grotesquely misinformed worms.
While there wasn’t inherently wrong with the musical performance from The Flaming Lips and Miley Cyrus, the embellishment of such a classic song, and such a classic album, makes the retuning and added swirls seem a bit, well, lazy. Indeed, one can’t help but ponder whether a more radical and brave reinvention of the record would have been any better or just a million times worse.
Of course, The Beatles are known to be one of the most covered bands of all time. In 1988, the likes of Billy Bragg, The Fall, Sonic Youth and others came together to record their own cover version of Sgt. Peppers, aptly named Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, released in conjunction with NME magazine. Reaching number one in the UK charts, the album proved that the commercial arm of The Beatles can still be stretched out in some style.
For Fortitude Magazine: http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/alt-indie/flaming-lips-covering-beatles-just-wrong/22042/
*Note: I have re-edited this piece. It wasn’t brilliantly edited first time around, nor was it very well spell checked by me. Apologies. Should be fine now. Any issues, do not hesitate to let me know. Thanks.