Flaming Lips’ brilliant take on Dark Side of the Moon

January 10, 2010

When a masterpiece album has a reputation as deep as Pink Floyd’s the Dark Side of the Moon*, it’s not hard for a band to cover the work and sound good. But it is an entirely different thing to give it a fresh, special makeover.

The Flaming Lips’ collaboration with Stardeath and the White Dwarves, Henry Rollins and Peaches is a track-for-track remake of arguably one of the most notable rock albums in popular music’s history. Their remake, a digital only release, proves stunning in its originality while maintaining a dedication to the original work.

It should go without saying that these alternative rock artists are too progressive to produce a note-for-note retread of the album. That said, I had high expectations for the collaboration.

Before I go on, allow me to note one human inconsistency in my appreciation of remakes of the Dark Side of the Moon. I can also wholeheartedly say that I appreciate a faithful reinterpretation of this classic album.

Last year, I had the pleasure to see Classic Albums Live, a troupe from Toronto who performed an amazingly disciplined interpretation of Dark Side. They captured every detail, except they did it all live, including the distinctive samples. For example, an array of non-traditional percussion instruments captured the opening sounds of “Money” with surprising precision. They also had an amazing young woman who sang the soaring improved solo in “Great Gig in the Sky” with mind-blowing precision and soul. If you know the record inside out, it was a delight to see and hear live.

But would it have made a good recording? Why, when you have the original? It was about seeing and hearing the album live, and that is where Classic Albums Live derive their much deserved notoriety. One of the best concerts I ever paid for.

Now, on the other side of things, if you want to hear real musical pros re-record Dark Side of the Moon, invest in the Flaming Lips’ collaboration with Stardeath and the White Dwarves, with supporting performances by Henry Rollins and Peaches. It’s mp3-only and available from iTunes and most mP3 sites like Napster (I personally would love to see a vinyl version pressed from the master, though).

The album opens with the familiar heartbeat and whir that kicks off the original, but instead of the sampled voice being buried below the mix, Rollins’ vocals are loud and up front: “I’ve been mad for fuckin’ years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yons…” continuing in the spirit and pace of the original, but adding his own distinct spin on it.

You know this will be a different work by those opening seconds. Then, instead of the smooth, clean guitars of the original “Speak to Me/Breath” that offers a relieving juxtaposition to the screams that precede it, these guys offer the same kind of scream in a distorted, quavering howl and decide to go with a loud, noisy fuzzy, driving baseline with swelling but gentle guitar feedback weaving through it. It’s brilliant, catchy and groovy and a stark difference to the original.

The album is full of such surprises, and there is no sense in spoiling the rest of it with words.  It’s worth buying in its entirety from Napster or iTunes, so go to those sites and download it now.

The inherit quality of the original album makes for an amazing springboard for these contemporary and always creative musicians. You can tell they are having a ball throughout and love the source material with verve. This is not a parody at all but a totally respectful reinterpretation. Some purists might call it blasphemy, but I would beg to differ. If you have heard it for yourself, do share your own thoughts in the comment box below. 

*You should really get it on the highly rated vinyl reissue.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

2 Responses to “Flaming Lips’ brilliant take on Dark Side of the Moon”

  1. Mimi Says:

    Perfect. Who is that adorable baby? Outstanding review. Vinyl coming on record store day. You can see them live on Jimmy Fallon show this Friday (April 16). I saw them live on NYE it is totally amazing.

    • indieethos Says:

      I’m clueless as to who the baby with the rainbow shooting eyes may be, but that will probably change once I have the record jacket in my hands!

      Thanks for the Jimmy Fallon appearance head’s up. Love that show, and I’d love to see the Lips live on it.

      Jealous about your NYE experience where I hear they played Dark Side in its entirety. I have seen them live only once in South Florida and it ranks as one of the greatest live shows I have ever seen.


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