When Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band came out in 1967, it changed the landscape of rock ‘n’ roll forever. Its strange recording techniques, avant-garde Indian influences and even eccentric cover art moved boundaries and reshaped pop music into a form that could be art. Through it, they made music that simply couldn’t be replicated live. Sgt. Peppers is a sacred record, considered perfect by some, only The Flaming Lips would rise, or even invent, the mountainous challenge of covering it in its entirety.
In opener ‘Sgt. Peppers’, the introduction is barely recognisable, but the riffs are still there. The high, sped up verses are fused with warped, slowed down choruses, adding a dizzying effect. The booming guitar sounds every bit as triumphant as the original. Straight away, the Lips show how good the original song writing was by going off on wild tangents, seemingly blasting the soundscape through time and space and still making it sound good.
Immediately after an auto-tuned voice ironically sings “What would you do if I sang out of tune”; a sharp modern twist on lyrics, exemplifying the detail on the record. Vocals to and fro between Black Pus and The Autumn Defense, just two of the twenty seven artists on here! “I get high with a little help from my friends” is the defining phrase here; lots of artists, and lots of drugs.
‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is a total re-creation, a product of Coyne’s drug-fuelled platonic romance with Miley Cyrus, with added Moby. What it loses in flow, it certainly makes up for in build-up. Coyne’s repeated “gone gone gone…” precedes rumbling, crashing and soaring vocals in the chorus.
‘Fixing a Hole’ has certainly the most psychedelic transformation. Lips side project The Electric Wurms bring Indian-style strings and windy echoes to the vocals. While the ‘Sgt. Pepper Reprise’, featuring MGMT’s Benjamin Goldwasser and Foxygen has as much sporadic energy and craziness as you’d expect from its creators. Another highlight is the relatively normal but elegantly covered ‘A Day in the Life’, with Cyrus returning to cover the break.
The largeness of the record makes it anything but background music. ‘Fwends’ takes the original songs to pieces and replaces its components with glitter covered choruses, hallucinogenic breaks and rocket-powered solos. The songs have been heard countless times before, but they’ve never been heard like this.