The Flaming Lips‘ front man, Wayne Coyne, has spent the last few months giving fans insider access into the recording of Heady Fwends - a collaborative studio album, initially compiled for Record Store Day, and now receiving a mass digital release – via an endless barrage of 140 characters. From Ke$ha‘s peculiar powder, to Coyne’s vampirical ventures, to Erykah Badu‘s beef, it has been a bizarre voyage, even for the fruitcakes that are The Flaming Lips.

Despite their notorious tendency to go against the grain, you have to hand it to the Oklahoma band for even envisaging, let alone executing, an album that could successfully house living legends (Yoko OnoNick Cave), indie icons (Bon IverMy Morning Jacket), underground unknowns (Tame ImpalaLightning Bolt) and Billboard bigwigs (Ke$ha, Erykah Badu) under the one roof. But envision and execute they did, and I’m psyched to tell you: they’ve pulled this one off big time.

The album launches with the Ke$ha collab, “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)” – the spaceage sequel to The Stooges‘ “1969.” Risky as it may sound opening with an artist abhorred by so many, “2012” is quite the kick-ass curtain-raiser, with the “Tik Tok” poptart graciously intermingling among the Lips’ celestial madness. Indeed, there is more to say for Ke$ha’s contribution to Heady Fwends than there is for another (similarly scorned) female who features later on in the album, a certain Yoko Ono, who could only think to rustle up a two-worded vocal loop for the futile “Do It!

The entire Heady Fwends emits with this sense of having been stuck together using crummy samples or pit-stop studio cuts, but most of the time, it manages to get away with such impetuosity.Take the fuzzbomb that is “You? Man? Human???,” which features a Grinderman-spirited Nick Cave chaotically impersonating an intergalactic messiah-cum-contemporary “Ziggy Stardust:”

 

Hey everybody, I’m doing alright
I’m driving around in the middle of the night
On a silver cloud
You can touch me if you want
It’s obligatory, it’s allowed

 

Sonically, Heady Fwends is considerably abrasive. Heavier highlights include the ultra-percussive “Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee,” starring the producer, Prefuse 73, shredding the shit out of some synthesizers, and Lightning Bolt’s “I’m Working at NASA on Acid,” which diverts from its innocent acoustic beginnings into a thick stormcloud of distortion. Oh, and the groove that is “That Ain’t My Trip” is another fuzzy focal point, if not just for the fact you get to hear Jim James of My Morning Jacket singing some of the goofiest lyrics of his career:

 

You always want to shave my balls
That ain’t my trip
You scream your screechy bat blue calls
That ain’t my trip

 

Between its turbulence, the album conceals moments of utter delicacy, too. Tame Impala’s dreamy cut, “Children of the Moon,” is only occasionally shaken from its reverie by a livewire guitar riff, while Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros‘ “Helping the Retarded to Find God“ dilates to tear jerker territory once Coyne’s vocals creep to the forefront:

 

We can hear them laughing at us
Judging all the time
I wish I could be like you
You don’t pay them no mind
And I stood there with you
Trying not to cry
You don’t pay them no mind

 

It’s just a shame that the glowing centrepiece of Heady Fwends, a cover of Roberta Flack‘s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” featuring Erykah Badu, was the fuel behind a recent, rather dubious feud. But this tantric 10-minute jam sees Badu put her bitchin’ to one side to instead immerse herself into guitarist, Steven Drozd’s drone, to the point their disparate entities become a singular, beautiful being, powerful enough to just about outshine its peers. All but The Flaming Lips themselves, proving here they’re still the most fearless freaks in music. So, what the hell are they going to do next?