Sound — 9
The Flaming Lips formed a long time ago in a galaxy far away in 1983, though they weren't widely known except for a short period in the '90s, mostly due to their song "She Don't Use Jelly" which released in 1993. They've continued to record albums and be commercially viable as an "underground" success. They've been associated with the modern resurgence of psychedelia in music, and have received critical praise despite their mainstream anonymity. "With a Little Help From My Fwends" is a track-by-track tribute to The Beatles' album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and includes a long list of guest musicians from Moby and Miley Cyrus to Maynard James Keenan and Grace Potter. The album has 13 tracks and clocks in at a little over 51 minutes. All proceeds from album sales is being donated to the Bella Foundation, which provides assistance to needy pet owners.
The album opens with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which features My Morning Jacket, Fever The Ghost and J Mascis. The song does a lot to set the stage in what to expect from the album and to give a good general idea of how the songs are being changed. "With a Little Help From My Friends" features Black Pus and Autumn Defense and utilizes multiple vocalists who range from using auto-tune to atonal singing after the song opens with a drum solo. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" strongly features Miley Cyrus, as well as Moby. They make use of a sitar in the song, a few very considerable crescendos and peaks, as well as a commendable vocal performance by Miley. "Getting Better" features Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish and Morgan Delt, which is mixed more like a classic '70s era psychedelic rock track, making a lot of use of stereo panning. "Fixing a Hole" features the Electric Würms, which is potentially one of the least changed songs on the album from the original - it definitely has a pleasant vibe to it.
"She's Leaving Home" features Phantogram, Julianna Barwick and Spaceface, who give the song a definite electronica feel throughout the song, using lo-fi samples for the percussion and heavy use of of stutter effects. "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" features Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer, and Sunbears!, who give the track a tense and anxiety filled vibe with a touch of a carnival thing going on. "Within You Without You" features Birdflower and Morgan Delt, making this one of the trippiest songs on the album, much like on the original album, except utilizing some more modern "noise." "When I'm Sixty-Four" features Def Rain and Pitchwafuzz, taking one of the most straightforward songs from the original album and turning it into one of the gnarliest tracks on the tribute. "Lovely Rita" features Tegan & Sara and Stardeath And White Dwarfs doing a very electronica/techno version of the track. "Good Morning Good Morning" features Zorch, Grace Potter and Treasure Mammal creating such a crazy version of the song, I couldn't even begin to describe it - there are definitely moments where it sounds like loud rock and others where it is straight up techno, and little moments in-between with dashes of the psychedelia that runs throughout the album. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" features Foxygen and Ben Goldwasser and does some weird evolving throughout the track. The album closes out with "A Day in the Life" which features Miley Cyrus and New Fumes, and it sticks fairly closely to the original version of the track compared to other tracks on this tribute album, until about halfway into the track when it takes a sharp left.
Lyrics — 8
From a lyrical standpoint, the album doesn't stray from the original - but in the vocal performances is where it leaves the reservation. From song to song the vocal styling changes considerably, along with the actual vocalists. One of the standout moments would be Miley's vocal performance on "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," which she did with a fairly faithful interpretation. She was also good on the track "A Day in the Life." Maynard did his thing on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!," which was good for what it was, but I didn't exactly enjoy the direction they took that individual track. Tegan & Sara's part on "Lovely Rita" was okay, and let you know they were "featured," but it was nothing phenomenal. I enjoyed Grace Potter's part on "Good Morning Good Morning," as well.
Overall Impression — 9
The Flaming Lips did a few key things right with this tribute album. One, they didn't just do note for note recreations of the songs, but kept the general structures and key melodic themes. Two, they didn't over-compress when they were in the studio. Three, they seemed to harness the spirit in which The Beatles recorded the original album, for the most part. I found myself impressed with some of the featured artists that I didn't expect to be impressed with, which is a big thumbs up for this album. It is a fun experience to listen to, and it works as an entire work or as individual tracks. Of course, there are some tracks that are better than others - my favorites would be "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "Within You Without You." This was a fun album for me.