Noisy cover of Sgt Pepper's from Flaming Lips and friends

The Flaming Lips's
With A Little Help From My Fwends
drops next week, but NPR has a first listen to the noisy, funny, irreverent full-album cover produced as a charity benefit for a group that provides veterinary care for needy pet owners.

Befitting its title, concept and intentions — all proceeds from the album go to an organization that helps provide veterinary care to needy pet owners — With A Little Help From My Fwends calls on a motley assortment of boundary-pushing guest players. These include obvious natural allies (My Morning Jacket, Foxygen, Dr. Dog) and the less obvious likes of Tegan And Sara and avowed Lips enthusiast Miley Cyrus, who turns up in both "A Day In The Life" and an appropriately sprawling "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." (In fact, "Lucy" reunites the team behind a bizarre video in which Cyrus and The Flaming Lips ham it up alongside Moby.)

Even The Flaming Lips can't cover such a canonical record without having to walk a series of fine lines — between reverence and irreverence, between adherence to the text and a career-spanning urge to fly off into outer space. There's obviously no sense in cobbling together a straight-ahead remake, but it's also difficult to imagine anyone seeking out a "tribute" album that cuts one of the most beloved classics in rock-music history down to size. But the band and its many collaborators ultimately walk all these fine lines by smearing, crossing, ignoring and obliterating them. The strange and sprawling result sounds both loving and deeply, deeply weird — which, for The Flaming Lips, mean just about the same thing.

With A Little Help From My Fwends
[DRM-free MP3 pre-order]

First Listen: The Flaming Lips, 'With A Little Help From My Fwends' [Stephen Thompson/NPR]