The Flaming Lips / Stardeath and White Dwarfs

The Dark Side of the Moon

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The Flaming Lips have a flair for making other artists’ music their own. Their versions of T. Rex’s “Ballrooms of Mars,” Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” and Madonna’s “Borderline,” a song they recorded with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, who also appear on the literally titled The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon, all show what they took from those artists and what they gave back. Though the Lips always seemed more indebted to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, they put their own stamp on Dark Side’s paranoia and moody atmospheres. They performed this version of Dark Side of the Moon at their 2010 New Year’s Eve celebration, capping a triumphant 2009 that included the release of their revitalized-sounding Embryonic. While the Lips recorded that album on their own, it’s still easy to hear how this album is symbiotic with Embryonic. The same wildness permeates these songs, giving them a feel that’s more primal than the original’s polished reflections. “Speak to Me/Breathe” opens the album with short-circuiting keyboards and raw, vaguely Latin-sounding percussion immediately tying it to the Lips’ last album, while “Time/Breathe (Reprise)” rides on the driving, fuzzed-out bass that was Embryonic’s spine. However, …Doing Dark Side of the Moon feels more focused than its predecessor -- of course, the familiarity these songs have helps -- with its rawness providing contrast instead of adding an intentionally primordial feel, as it did on Embryonic. Elsewhere, the Flaming Lips and guests are just as faithful to Dark Side of the Moon as they need to be, using Peaches as a stand-in for Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky” -- although Peaches’ super-saturated howls are far more odd and jubilant. As on the original, some of the best moments are the spookiest ones. “Us and Them” sounds like a conversation held across a kitchen table instead of in deepest space, regardless of the synths whooshing around Wayne Coyne’s vocals, and tender guitars underscore its unique intimacy. “Brain Damage” is even more stripped-down while remaining true to the original’s air of eerie knowingness, of being just sane enough to know you’re going crazy. As always, the Flaming Lips approach this tribute by exploring how they can serve the songs, without worrying about the legacy or image of the artist they’re covering. The only time this backfires (slightly) is on “Money,” which has a cleverly tinny drum machine that sounds like coins piling up, but its heavy vocoders and stiff beats lose too much of the original’s jaded swing. Despite the sheer number of musicians playing on it, The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon is a distinctly non-bloated treatment of one of rock’s most epic albums. While it might be more fun than impressive, fun has always been a vital part of the Flaming Lips’ best music.

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