You Must Be Upgraded. The Flaming Lips, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends.

Like anything and everything, Oklahoma's The Flaming Lips once occupied a quite definitive space in time; their extraterrestrial and ever outré genre mush of ultimate timelessness musical ensuring brains be kept jellified in joy whilst their elaborate live shows consistently salvaged biceps from premature burnout. Scribing subjectively, both The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots proved formative records in incontrovertibly warping my perception of what could feasibly constitute good, bad and unsparingly ugly stuff sonic, and Wayne Coyne et al. have incontestably authored things to be bundled into each one of the aforesaid triumvirate of execrably austere categorisation. Yet they had their time; their place in my heart as their neo-psych wig-outs wound gracefully down my ears, leaving polychromatic splurges of sherbet-spiced glee in their airy wake. Those days, therefore dishearteningly, appear to be over.

Amid all the gimmickry of USBs concealed within gelatinous crania flavoured with class B psychotropic and songs seemingly never-ending at an entire day in length, if Coyne always dawdled a fine line between the most genial of genius and a more geeky lunacy then it would here appear as though he's fallen off the edge. Or down the back of the sofa of life. Where, perhaps fortunately, along with the likes of Heady, if abhorrent Fwends Ke$ha, Yoko Ono and Justin Vernon he appears to have encountered a berserk horde of "interested rich Flaming Lips people." Originally outed as a Record Store Day (none too) exclusive 12" run of 10,000 at some price somewhat exorbitant (Coyne claimed to have daubed these plastics with the ichor of Ms. Sebert and Alan Palomo as a mark of the onerous effort poured in) if, like me, you may have become a touch disenchanted with the unapologetically bat-shit schtick of it all then it's all too easy to disregard The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends as another inessential vanity project engineered in order to enhance personal economics, preconceived kook and continue this self-consciously crazed descent into insanity. And/ or insignificance.

Not that that's how they're seemingly perceiving the thing: opener 2012 [You Must Be Upgraded] – a caustic thrash of horrid glitch and hideous white rap revolving about jumping asses and acid spells – appears a damnatory condemning of our collective, contemporary iNeurosis. We're all only too aware of Apple's mischievous phasing out of once luminous products, as well as of the drastic contracting of attention spans although in such an atmosphere do we really need Ke$ha? To have her yapping down your lugholes of "people going to hell" certainly seems superfluous to our everyday existence (withal you'd expect her to be hoisted aboard Charon's ferry first), as does a denouement that's excruciatingly redolent of Florence Welch's now all-pervasive yells.

For although 2012 may be far from the finest vintage in many a respect, it's unarguably worthy of more than this. Ashes In The Air is fine, or rather more finely composed as floaty disharmony and a veritably 2k12 hallmark – Auto-Tune – play out over what sounds like scrap left over from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Lyrics of "robot dogs" and an inability to escape an oppressive, inhuman force only exacerbate this impression of the immediately underwhelming. Supermoon Made Me Want To Pee, meanwhile, featuring Guillermo Scott Heren is distinctly overwhelming and sounds like Fuck Buttons at their most broken being further dismantled in a cacophonously malfunctioning liquefier. Thus far it seems fair to say that these Fwends impose themselves in a way that's more heavy than Heady in any way: Tame Impala ghost in on Children Of The Moon, suffusing its spacey vacuity with their MGMT-alike apathy. The 'Lips' every involvement thus asphyxiated by their Oz tentacles, it's as irksome as Ono's inconspicuous involvement on the bassy occult mystics of Do It!

Despite the Nick Cave-spotlighting You, Man? Human??? initially sounding like Iggy Pop brutalising Joanna Newsom's beloved umpteen-string, hearing the Antipodean yodel: "You can touch me if you want/ It's statuary/ It's allowed" proves more squirmish a lyrical sequence than that which promotes his No Pussy Blues to such an elevated echelon of lewd grot. "I ain't been human for years", Cave professes in its closing moments and indeed it's one heck of a way to further dehumanise an alt.rock immortal. However it's not all doom and drear – the earthy hum of Erykah Badu wondrously befits the starry oneirics of a radical reworking of Roberta Flack's The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face which, here gilded with Blanck Mass atmospherics, veritably glows. Experiencing noisecore duo Lightning Bolt not totally lose it for once amid the metamorphic permutations of the evolutional I'm Working At NASA On Acid is similarly enlightening whilst hearing Jim James out of his comfort zone of beardy, acoustic-laden repose on the screechy psych gurgle to That Ain't My Trip suggests the My Morning Jacket man could hold his own through bleary-eyed daybreak.

Yet oddly the most lustrously illuminated pièce is a divinely serene berceuse beside Alex Ebert. The motives for this being quite so abnormal are manifold: it's perhaps the most normal track here. It sounds a little like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (for reasons unambiguous and inevitable) and a lot like Elbow, and yet it still enchants. Every vocal beatific; every softened guitar tone paradisiacal; its one crescendo unconditionally praiseworthy, it's a glory. That the messianic figure of Ebert be reciting a song by the name of Helping the Retarded to Know God assimilates he – or at least the fabricated image of – forever closer to the Son of He, which is either aesthetically pleasing, or aurally pleasant, or despicably irreverent depending on personal belief.

At any rate, my personal belief on The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends is ultimately one of disbelief. Recorded at various spare moments and loose ends following the conception of Embryonic, with said ends then tied a little arbitrarily (Coyne is yet to meet many of his newfound cronies) that the album is lacking in cohesive structure is of little surprise. It may even be of little import. But that it assumes the feel of a compilation LP – and one for the most part bereft of discernible collaboration – demarcates it as a disillusioning fall from grace for the starry-eyed Oklahomans that leaves the tongue singed with a bitter dismay. Forget Fight Test; Coyne ought to have to face up to both inquisition and armada if he ever resurfaces from whichever lunar orifice he's currently inhabiting.