Album Review: The Flaming Lips and Yoko Ono – Joint 12″ EP

By on Friday, 6th January 2012 at 12:00 pm

For those who wish their days were filled with just a bit more surrealist rock music overlaid with meandering female vocals, this collaboration between the Flaming Lips (pictured above) and Yoko Ono is sure to pique the interest. Initially released as an ultra-rare, limited to 2,000 copies 12″ EP sold at the Lips’ recent New Year’s Eve gig, now all the tracks are available to mere mortals to stream.

At 9 minutes long, lead-off track ‘The Fear of Litany’ is a formidable piece of work: a low-budget ’70s sci-fi soundtrack counterpoints a droning two-note bass line, random female moaning and distant, reverbed guitar chords. A disturbing stream of consciousness. ‘Brain Of Heaven’ offers a more conventional song structure; wobbly, vari-speed strings and masses of reverb; one assumes the female warbling is actually Yoko Ono, but the production is so obtuse, it can be little more than a guess.

‘Do It’ finds our female protagonist yelling the song title over industrial-strength instrumentation which, surprisingly, manages to arrange itself into some semblance of a ramshackle groove. Finally, ‘Atlas Eets Christmas’ (yes, it’s ‘Eets’, that’s not a typo) is arguably the most conventional track here, even featuring traditional festive handbells donging away. Of course there’s bound to be something surreal and disturbing bubbling under the surface, but at a casual listen it could well be mistaken for the usual seasonal fodder. Odd in its lack of oddness.

This collaboration, with hindsight, seems an obvious match. Ono has impeccable high art credentials, and a powerful connection to rock aristocracy. The Flaming Lips have succeeded in merging the obscure with the populist; of bringing surrealism to the masses and making it work as conventional entertainment. Both are household names, but would surely dismiss any notion that their work is commonplace. In their 1997 four-disc album ‘Zaireeka’, the Lips effectively delivered an Ono-style Instruction Painting:

Take four stereo CD players
Scatter them about your room on a cold night
Insert a Zaireeka disc into each and play loud
Make your neighbours listen

…which is why expectations are naturally high for the fruits of this collaboration, and why, inevitably, the pieces fall slightly short. The songs meander rather than assert themselves, and it is difficult to discern the exact message within each. There is no definitive, game-changing moment, although ‘The Fear of Litany’ is appropriately strange, and in its various movements fragile beauty lies. These four tracks are such a tangible appetiser, it would be a shame if there weren’t more releases from this most singular of collaborations, but perhaps with a more concise, directional tone, of which both parties have proven themselves more than capable.


So we don’t have any copies of this limited edition EP and you probably don’t either. But you can listen to the tracks below.

‘The Fear of Litany’

‘Do It’

‘Brain of Heaven’

‘Atlas Eets Christmas’

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