Have you ever been tripping on acid with your friends and thought “let’s just cover an entire Beatles album?” No? Well, the Flaming Lips have had that thought and thus With a Little Help From My Fwends was created. The album, track-for-track tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, features guest appearances from some of music’s biggest stars like Miley Cyrus, Tegan and Sara, Phantogram, and more.
While the album may feature a guest or multiple guests on every track, make no mistake that this is a Flaming Lips album. Opening track “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” features My Morning Jacket and J Mascis but its doubtful most listeners can tell with the wall-of-noise production. With the chorus of vocals and the psychedelic effects put on them, it is impossible to recognize even the distinct vocal stylings of Jim James or J. Mascis (if either of them is actually singing).
Maybe even more bizarre is “Getting Better” which features Chuck Inglish among others. Nowhere on the track is there rapping so one is left to wonder if his name appears simply because he was in the room when it was recorded? Because any Chuck Inglish fan listening to “Getting Better” in hopes of catching an earful from the Cool Kids member will be sorely disappointed.
Perhaps the only fans that won’t be disappointed are Miley Cyrus’. Her vocals on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” are not note-worthy but at least you can tell it is her singing. Of course, whether or not her fanbase would be excited to sit through the psychedelic wall-of-noise is a whole other story.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other notable guest, Maynard James Keenan’s vocals on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” His dictatorial sing-songy oration adds to the tracks on-the-verge-of-madness feel. Packed with that maniacal punch, the rendition is one of the most successful on the album.
With that being said, there aren’t many successful renditions on With a Little Help From My Fwends. There are some interesting interpretations of tracks which maybe worth one listen through but there is very little here that warrants multiple listens. But moreover, the album’s main fault is in the marketing. Boasting nearly 30 guest performers as a sales claim is one thing but when only a handful of them are noticeable, it begins to feel a bit like false advertising.