It should come as no surprise that the Flaming Lips have covered Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety—they’re clearly indebted to (and in love with) the tripped out, experimental side of Pink Floyd. What is a surprise, however, is that their retooling of the album is tedious and unsatisfying.
The album opens with punk icon/activist Henry Rollins reciting the interview snippets that begin the original Dark Side (he even provides the requisite maniacal laughter), but his straight-faced readings of these well-known phrases (“I’ve always been mad”) sound like bad community theater. When the group delves into “Breathe,” they recast the tune as an energetic Krautrock jam, but Wayne Coyne’s odd stop-start vocals don’t match the propulsive backing band.
Speaking of backing bands, Stardeath and the White Dwarfs (headed by Wayne’s nephew, Dennis Coyne) assist the Lips throughout the album. The best song on the record, “Time/Breathe (Reprise),” is attributed solely to them on iTunes, so they don’t ruin their developing reputation. They actually imbue “Time” with some much-needed muscle, and the tape-looped cough they add to the song is a nice Steve Reich touch.
For “The Great Gig in the Sky,” electro-rock provocateur Peaches shows up to squeal a rendition of Clare Torry’s famous wordless vocals. Her performance is funky but not fresh—it’s a fair attempt to make it her own, but she fails to hit the listener on a gut level.
The absolute worst moment on The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing the Dark Side of the Moon (yeah, that’s the full name of the album) is “Money.” The Lips turns the Dark Side’s biggest hit into a plodding, tuneless waltz with irritating vocoder vocals—it’s rare to hear a song sound so mechanical and cartoonishly dopey at the same time. Take a listen to it after the jump:
The whole album isn’t embarrassing, but its better moments—the instrumentals “On the Run” and “Any Colour You Like”—are merely bearable. There isn’t enough fascinating material here to justify an official release of this project. Why does this fail so miserably? It might have something to do with the fact that even today Dark Side sounds ahead of its time (a rare feat for a 70s prog-rock album), whereas this album recasts all nine songs in a King Crimson-lite style that has sounded stale since well before Dark Side was even released.
It’s not that this crew doesn’t reinvent the material, it’s that they allow their versions to bring out the cheesiest elements in the Flaming Lips’ sound. Some of the synth squiggles here sound like they belong in Plan 9 from Outer Space instead of a tribute to Pink Floyd’s groundbreaking, gorgeous album.
One thing you have to give them credit for, though: Coyne and company were smart enough to hold off on releasing this album until the very end of the year—otherwise this stillborn would be a shoo-in for those Worst Albums of 2009 lists. What do you think? Is it an affront to the original, or does it actually tickle you pink (floyd)?
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