Oklahoma April Music Digest: Week 4: How else was this going to end? I had some initial ideas on an ode to Oklahoma City, about its surreptitious and unbelievable ascent into a cool fucking place to live. Then I found this photo. Nothing further necessary.
So an unexpectedly music rich Oklahoma April (N.B. which has rightly become Oklahoma’s month when, absent a few weeks in October, it’s often the most beautiful and always the most vibrant weather of the year and during which we commemorate our founding (Land Run of April 22, 1889), remember our lowest low (April 19th) with the Memorial Marathon, and celebrate our highly unlikely present behind our basketball team hurdling into the playoffs) for WD ends as it should with Oklahoma City’s Flaming Lips. Still somehow here to soundtrack it all.
For April’s Record Store Day (Guestroom!), the Lips released an album of collaborations they’ve teased us with the last two years titled The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. The Heady Fwends include Ke$sha, Bon Iver, Erika Badu, Nick Cave, and Yoko Ono among others. About this random lineup, Pitchfork had the following to say:
“Bono may be the archetype for the do-gooder rock star who wants to heal the world, but if any musician is going to broker peace in the Middle East, convince North Korea to deep-six its nukes, and get the original line-up of Guns N’ Roses back together, it’s Wayne Coyne.”
(N.B. Consider Wayne signing Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell to Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. Peace? A certainty.)
Once it was announced Heady Fwends was dropping on Record Store Day (which is a much bigger deal than I ever realized), I was jacked-up to get my hands on it as their prior effort (N.B. Not counting their track for track cover of Pink Floyd’s uncover-able Dark Side of the Moon), Embryonic, left me disappointed (However, I’m starting to come around). Guestroom still had copies when I showed up late (and moderately drunk) on Saturday and I felt lucky (N.B. and I felt unique as I was certain I was the only customer they had that day who bought both The Lips and The Boss. But I didn’t confirm this).
And not a week later, I can say for certain Heady Fwends is an utter Lips-ian catastrophe that I can’t believe I spent money on (N.B. Yes I can). Being generous, WD would call it a rambling sonic odyssey, emphasizing weirdness over all, free from any identifying labels (literally free, there are no printed words that might inform or identify what side, what song, or what artists you’re hearing on either sleeve of the double album or the sweet custom designed vinyl. See right) or context, seemingly created only for visual enjoyment and aural curiosity. The titles of the songs range from the completely reasonable Flaming Lips (Ashes in the Air) to the completely unreasonable Flaming Lips (Helping the Retarded to Find God). Dependent upon your persistence, you might be able to cull from them any remarkable steps of brillance.
So far, I have not. But this collaboration with Tame Impala is the closest Heady Fwends comes to something listenable outside the I-wonder-if-I-listen-to-this-enough-it-will-start-to-make-sense context. It’s fully possessed of Wayne’s ear for peculiar and infinitely catchy pop melodies stuffed into awkward soundscapes that makes him so completely loved and freaked out by music fans (including this one). It never really stumbles like I (having listened to the entire album a couple of times) expected it to. But I have to be honest with you, I’m not really that certain how good a song it is or if it just sticks out because of its listenability compared to the rest.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. An album of weird noise rock, perfectly unbalanced pop sensibilities, and partnerships with John Lennon’s wife, ridiculously untalented blond female rappers (N.B. Who after research, I gotta admit, completely killed one of the great Dylan songs here a capella and is maybe marginally more talented than Mr. Grouchy-pants wants to give her credit), and even good ol’ Chris Martin is just The Lips’ thang. And they can have it, ’cause their ours.
So you can rest assured this Sunday at some point the Memorial Marathon Mix on the Shuffle is gonna hit me with Fight Test or Race for the Prize and I’ll get an extra shot of adrenaline for one more mile, one more round of high-fives, and one more set of finish-line hugs. And I’ll be happy that my participation in such a remarkable, powerful, and symbolic event in the state I love, surrounded by the people I love, was soundtracked by a band I love, Oklahoma’s inscrutable and brilliant Flaming Lips.