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Jim DeRogatis

Mourn not Miley Cyrus’ dead pets

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“S---’s ‘bout to get real freaky, I can feel it/I hope you’re ready, I’m into whatever,” former bad-girl teen-pop phenom Miley Cyrus coos on the plodding “Fweaky” from her surprise new free-steam release Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. “S---’s ’bout to get real freaky I can feel it/Don’t you worry, you won’t regret it.”

Yes, well, regrets? I have a few.

For starters, one of the most dependable truisms in popular music is that anyone continually emphasizing that they’re “fweaky” (or weird, or dangerous, or bad, or f---ed-up, etc.) is never a fraction as “out there” as they’re claiming to be. At the end of the day, the fweakiest Miley gets is confessing she’s Vegan, talking lewd a lot (which she consistently mistakes for sexy, sticking out that infamous tongue), and jawing endlessly about non-medicinal intake of hemp. “Yeah I smoke pot/Yeah I love peace,” she tells us on the single “Dooo It!,” which she performed at the MTV Video Music Awards to herald this release. “But I don’t give a f---/I ain’t no hippy.”

As rallying cries go, that’s one of the lamest in recent memory.

A silly number of critics are hailing how “daring” Miley was to self-fund (for a reported $50,000) her fifth album and to self-release it outside her contract with RCA, all in homage to a succession of beloved but now-deceased critters (her dog Floyd, her blowfish Pablow, and her pal’s cat Twinkle). The smart and ambitious pop star grasping for credibility via a sharp left turn toward the underground is nothing new, either, so it’s easy to see why she’d gravitate toward her primary collaborator here, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. But what’s in it for him?

Questioned about dubious moves toward the mainstream, the Lips long have given an answer that combines the improv rule of answering every question with “yes” with the love of chaotic troublemaking displayed by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. This was much easier to accept back in the day, when the results were as cool as the famous “Green Room” commercial or the band’s appearance on Beverly Hills 90210, than it has been of late, when the veteran psychedelic rockers have cozied up to Ke$sha or the former Hannah Montana. The whiff of dirty old man in the Instagram obsession that Coyne (age 54) has had with Miley (age 22) is not at all attractive, though Cyrus insists that while she is “100 percent in love with Wayne, and Wayne is in love with me… it’s nothing sexual in any way. That would be the grossest.”

Wayne Coyne and Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards

As for the offspring of the two’s coupling (midwifed by a number of others, including Ariel Pink, Big Sean, and Mike Will Made-It; the full credits can be found here), the 22 tracks aren’t “the grossest”—there are hints here and there of the robust and undeniable instrument displayed on, say, Miley’s cover of “Jolene,” and she is undeniably a sometimes entertaining hell-raiser, if nowhere near the paradigm of female self-empowerment cited by some boosters. (She still plays the male fantasy card all the time.) But the majority of the tracks sound like either hastily rewritten and vastly inferior Lips tunes circa The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, minus the rhythmic drive and anthemic hooks, or unfocused, rambling synth noodles of the sort the sort that Steven Drozd and Wayne’s kin Dennis Coyne might churn out while waiting for the New Snake Person Guru to finish one of his monologues/harangues.

That is to say, the tragic low of the band’s last proper album The Terror continues, and it gets harder all the time to recall why this group once really mattered as a paradigm of true fweakiness paired with undeniable rock power and unbeatable pop smarts.

 

Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz (Smiley Miley)

Rating on the 4-star scale: 1.5 stars

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