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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Record Routine: Sgt. Pepper’s cover fails to impress

It probably makes sense to preface this by admitting my bias toward the Beatles, especially Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which I think is their greatest accomplishment as a group, the best pop hybrid album of all time and one of the most important pieces of music ever created. But these statements, though facially grand and pretentious, are commonplace when referring to the Beatles because, well, they were just that important. As a hardcore Sgt. Pepper’s fan, I had high expectations for the Flaming Lips’ song-by-song, full-album collaboration almost-cleverly named With a Little Help from My Fwends.

This is not the first time the Lips have taken on the standards of rock and pop in this way. In addition to covering the Stones and Pink Floyd, they did a complete reimagining of King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King that more than did the album justice. This made me expect great things from their take on Sgt. Pepper’s. But as much as I wanted to believe this album would simultaneously respect and improve upon the original tracks, this rendition can’t keep up with the 1967 version.

The opening track, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” set up the album for success. J. Mascis’ guitar solo at the end of the song had me smiling, anticipating what other pleasant surprises were waiting in the other songs. But this song, no more than an intro on the original album, sadly ended up being the best on the entire project.

If there’s one thing I never thought I would experience, it’s an album that features Black Pus on the second track and Miley Cyrus on the third. But lo and behold, the Flaming Lips, with their decades of weird and varied connections, put together one of the oddest lineups ever assembled for an album. And in practice, despite the objections from purist Beatles fans, or random misogynists you might see in comment threads claiming she has no place touching “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” Miley Cyrus makes this album much better than it would have been without her. Even just her Miley panache, can be felt through a spot-on vocal performance.

Frankly, I have nothing else good to say about this album. The decision to make Fwends over 11 minutes longer than the original probably contributed to this more than anything else. Sgt. Pepper’s is a masterpiece because it experiments with a spacey, psychedelic feel while still remaining under 40 minutes in length. I challenge you to find a bit of fat on the Beatles studio album. Almost every track on the Lips remake ends up feeling drawn out by a combination of over-production and -ambition. Wayne Coyne and the Lips should have taken more initiative in planning how the songs should interact with one another because their final product ended up sounding quite homogenous.

This mostly lackluster production is topped off by a sub-standard version of “A Day in the Life,” which is undoubtedly the most important song on the album. Miley also did vocals for this song, which sounded just fine. The issue was that the song was not made even remotely more interesting. I would listen to the original version over the cover every time.

At the end of the day, the proceeds from Fwends go to a good cause (assisting disadvantaged and elderly pet owners), so I can’t really be that upset. However, from a band like the Flaming Lips who clearly idolize the Beatles, I think it’s fair to have expected more from this effort.

Rating: C+

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