The Flaming Lips — The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends 

Without consulting the track listing, I tried to associate any of its 13 songs with the visitors. Not counting the needlessly 10-minute cover of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” with Erykah Badu’s vocals, I was able to place one.

My point? This is not a collaborative album in the true sense; this is a Lips record with the company bending to Wayne Coyne’s will, so those wondering what a team-up between the band and My Morning Jacket might sound like, keep wondering.

When the invitation reads “costume required for attendance,” dammit, you’re going to don a costume, even if you are Nick Cave.

Whether this is a good thing depends on your opinion of Embryonic, the Lips’ last original LP, which found them abandoning the dream-pop melodies of their Soft Bulletin breakthrough for more experimental, uneasy-listening pastures. Fwends boasts those touches in droves, from buzz-saw riffs to psychedelic static.

To me, only two tracks felt like full-fledged songs versus jacking-around outtakes: the downtempo “Tasered and Maced,” where Ghostland Observatory’s electro-spooky touch is tangible, and the unfortunately titled “Helping the Retarded to Know God.”

As for the remainder, I quote the opening of song six: “You always want to shave my balls / That ain’t my trip.” —Rod Lott

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