The Flaming Lips have balls. They covered Radiohead. Many bands release albums consisting mostly of covers, as the Flaming Lips recently did with their Fight Test E.P. But most bands cover songs that were released decades ago, or that are by artists who are too old to pick up their guitars. The Flaming Lips had the courage and confidence to cover the work of their contemporaries, which is rarely done and almost never achieved well, and they have the skill to do it well.
The Fight Test EP contains seven tracks, only two of which have not been previously released: "The Strange Design of Conscience" and "Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)." The title track, "The Fight Test," is drawn from their last release, 2002’s critically acclaimed Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and is accented with a melody taken from Cat Stevens. "Do You Realize" is also remixed from Yoshimi, with the help of Scott Hardkiss. The three remaining tracks are covers: Radiohead’s "Knives Out," Beck’s "The Golden Age" and Kylie Minogue’s "Can’t Get You Out of My Head." The Flaming Lips put modern songs in a different context, letting the listener see the song through another type of lens.
Probably due to the fact that the Flaming Lips have been touring with Beck, "The Golden Age" cover is done remarkably well. They slip in a few innuendoes of their own sound, but generally stick to the framework of Beck’s melody. And though the "Knives Out" cover shows that vocalist Wayne Coyne studied Thom Yorke in some capacity before cutting the track, the shining cover is "Can’t Get You Out of My Head." The band somehow managed to make this lackluster dance hit into something moody and immense and wonderfully unrecognizable.
Not only did the Flaming Lips show some skin by covering their contemporaries, but also they did it with a playful spirit that makes for an attractive album. The folky new song, "Thank You Jack White (For the Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)" is the real gem of the EP. The lyrics are refreshingly funny and it sounds just like the Flaming Lips you have liked since 1992’s Hit to Death in the Future Head.
The Flaming Lips had the option to put out an EP consisting solely of the songs that did not make it onto Yoshimi, but they chose to do something a bit more amusing. They certainly have not slipped into the indie rock hypnosis that makes so many current bands sound the same. This is unlike anything that has been released for a while. In essence, it is just a cover album, but still, we should applaud the Flaming Lips for making us smile.