Compact Review: Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz

Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz
Released: August 30, 2015
Rating: 88/100


Two years ago Miley Cyrus broke America when she stuck her tongue out and twerked on Robin Thicke at the VMAs. I still don’t know why everyone was so surprised. Former agents of Disney have been growing up and misbehaving for years and everyone always reacts like it’s the first time it’s ever happened. For Miley Cyrus, it was only a matter of time. Bruno Mars gave the performance of a lifetime and no one noticed because Miley stole the show (Side note — Isn’t it weird that Bruno Mars still seems like an underdog, even post-“Uptown Funk”?). In the wake of that infamous performance, Miley Cyrus transformed her image. She morphed into a confrontationally strange and sexual artist who is always performing.

Miley Cyrus hosting the VMAs in 2015 made a lot of sense. I got exactly what I expected. It was off-beat, self indulgent and intentionally ‘shocking’. Plenty of typically VMAish things went down and that was all just fine, but at the end, something really insane happened. Miley Cyrus took the stage with Her Dead Petz band aka The Flaming Lips and they performed a real peculiar track called “Dooo It!”. An instant later a new she dropped a free album on SoundCloud and we were ushered into a new era of Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz will take you on a mind bending journey. It’s 92 minutes of madness and it is not for the closed-minded or weak-willed. It’s a sex fueled psychedelic odyssey through the mind of one of the America’s most divisive pop artists. Largely produced and co-written with Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz features 23 tracks of wildly surreal psych-pop and rock. If you thought Bangerz was a plot twist in the career of Miley Cyrus, just wait until you hear this monstrosity.

In the time since Bangerz, Miley Cyrus made some serious upgrades to her bench. She befriended legendary indie rock odd-ball Wayne Coyne and I guess he became her muse. Or maybe the other way around. Bangerz mastermind, Mike Will Made It produced five songs and manages blend the album’s psychedelic haze with a more radio-ready template. With guests like Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel, Big Sean and Ariel Pink, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz sounds like a mad pop chemist’s terrible experiment gone horribly right.

The Flaming Lips provide a breathtaking soundscape for Cyrus’ undeniable vocal talents to operate and that’s the real magic of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. The more time I spend with these songs, the more I realize how perfect this pairing is. The Flaming Lips have always had a tenuous relationship with pop music; too weird for mainstream appeal, too pop sensible to get totally lost on the fringes. As Miley Cyrus approaches her strangeness critical mass, who better to usher her through to the other side of mainstream than Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips?

To be fair, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is a deeply flawed record. It’s messy and bloated. It starts with perhaps the worst song on the album. It’s occasionally incoherent and way too long but even at its worst, it’s never boring. She sings as passionately about her ex-lovers as she does about her dead pet blowfish. Her goofiness and trademark brashness resonate clearly throughout the album without ever seeming too disingenuous. Her lyrics are often comically simple but there is some revelatory substance here too. She shows off influence from other divisive pop provocateurs like Madonna (“Bang Me Box”), Lana Del Rey (“Cyrus Skies”) and Lady Gaga (“1 Sun”) but she toes the line and never sounds entirely derivative.

For all its flaws, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz contains some staggeringly great moments. The gorgeous atmospherics and delicate escalation of the bitter-sweet “Karen Don’t Be Sad” sounds as good as anything The Flaming Lips have released in their 30 year career. The ex-lover monologues and soaring chorus of “BB Talk” make for an unlikely but irresistibly charming tune. “Tiger Dreams” featuring Ariel Pink is a hypnotic drone that blooms into a hypnotic sprawl of  cosmic textures and harmonies. “Bang Me Box” is maybe the least subtle song about sex I’ve ever heard but Mike Will Made It brings his A game and they make it work. The nostalgic electro-ballad “Lighter” is slick and uncompromising Mike Will Made It track primed for mainstream consumption. As Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz winds downCyrus mourns the death of her blowfish Pablow, and though the minimal piano ballad borders on the absurd, the emotional breakdown at the end sounds real enough for me. In the final moments of the album, Miley Cyrus describes her dreams and pushes the limits of her voice, crying out “What does it mean?” and I’ll be damned if it give me the chills when I heard it.

Maybe I’m just a sucker and a poptimist, but Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is provocative, entertaining and deliriously imaginative. It’s so easy to assume that all pop music is created in a lab by a team of songwriters, producers, and marketeers. It’s natural to be eagerly dismissive of any artist with famous parents or a Disney pedigree. We can ignore the artistic integrity of someone like Miley Cyrus for a million reasons but I choose to believe that at the core of this desperately outlandish human being, there is a real desire to create something meaningful and original. This album never feels like an orchestrated act of dissent but rather a genuine stride into uncharted territory. Plenty artists started with disposable careers and changed course to become more artistically viable; who is to say that Miley Cyrus isn’t next? Set aside the incessant Instagrams, tongue waggling and brash self-indulgence, and you might realize something truly shocking: Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is a bizarro pop masterpiece.

Top Tracks: “Slab of Butter (Scorpion) feat. Sarah Barthel”, “Lighter”, “BB Talk”, “Tiger Dreams feat. Ariel Pink”

Listen to Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz On SoubdCloud

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19 thoughts on “Compact Review: Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz

  1. This review is right on. I think it can be too easy to deride Miley Cyrus because of her brashness and immaturity, and most reviewers are eagerly jumping on that bandwagon. Though far from perfect, this album is easily the most artistically honest one that she has made so far, and that, at least, should be celebrated.

    1. I think people are quick to complain about the homogeneous landscape of pop stars and pop music but as soon as someone does something risky and artistically bold, out come the pitchforks…

  2. It’s the most refreshing album released by a “pop” star since years. I mostly listen to mainstream music but almost all the song resemble each other, Dead Petz introduced me to the mirror world of pop music and I must admit I loved my trip, the sounds are crude and wild, the lyrics are simple yet very straight to the point (“bang me box”, “milky milky milk”) and very touching too (“Karen don’t be sad”, “the Floyd song” “Space boots”, “Pablow the blowfish” ). For me, it’s the best album that has been released since the beginning of the year, next to it all the 1989, PRISM etc just sound so sugar coated and childish to me … I finally got to have a glimpse of what “real” music sounds like, thanks to miley and her dead petz 🙂

    1. Devon, I’m so happy to hear that this album has expanded your horizons. Pop music can be such wonderous thing but it’s so rarely a place for experimentation. I love the music of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry but I prefer indie rock and alternative music for this reason. There is something addictive about hearing music that is fresh and challenging. If you are looking for some other artists that are doing some genuinely interesting things while at the same time sound pop friendly, I highly recommend the following:

      Shamir: https://compactdiscography.com/2015/08/19/you-should-know-shamirs-ratchet/

      Tame Impala: https://compactdiscography.com/2015/08/06/compact-review-tame-impalas-currents/

      Future Islands: https://compactdiscography.com/2015/02/08/best-album-of-2014-future-islands-singles/

      Thanks for checking out Compact Discography. I hope this can be a place for you discover and discuss new music.

  3. I honestly think that this is one of the few reviews that gets this album. I swear, I have been listening to it non stop for days, and every time I listen to it, I love it even more! It’s so strange and weird and it’s a mess, but that’s what’s perfect about it. The fact that it contains songs about sex, drugs, love, and loss makes it the perfect album with the perfect combination of songs. “Dooo it” gives a sneak peek to what is to come in this album, speaking about smoking pot and not giving a fuck but at the same time loving peace and wanting it in life. Also, “karen dont be sad”, “lighter”, “I get so scared” are really touching. “BB talk” is a refreshing song about her ex and her current boyfriend, “Bang me box” is a sexual song but it’s addictive once you listen to it, I didn’t really like “Milky milky milk” but it’s okay, nothing could stop me from listening to this masterpiece. It ends with touching songs in “pablow the blowfish” and “the twinkle song” and it tests Miley’s vocals. I just love this album so much, and even though Miley has a crazy sexual side, you cant deny the fact that she is a very talented and artistic person.

    1. I’m flattered that you think ‘I get it’ when every other review says that I’ve totally lost my mind. I fully expect most people to hate this albums because of her reputation but I’m trying to look beyond the nonsense and approach it with an open mind and I think something really special and interesting is happening here.

  4. I agree with this review 110%. I’d never heard one MC song in my life, but the Flaming Lips hook got me interested. I listened to it twice this weekend and like it better than anything the FLs have made since Yoshimi. Thanks for making me feel less alone in the wilderness. Solidly written, well-reasoned review.

  5. The Flaming Lips have such a fascinating discography. Yoshimi, Soft Bulletin and Transmissions From the Satellite Heart were such important discoveries for me as I was uncovering the magical world of alternative and independent music. They have their ups and downs but they are legendary weirdos capable of incredible things.

  6. I love this Album, it keeps me listing. Its different and refreshing. Thank you for your review. It was a good read and exactly how I feel about the album. Only problem is … I can’t take the Album with me on my phone.

  7. It took a while for me to get to listen to “Dead Petz” because I could only find it download to streaming on So0undcloud…and I HATE streaming…I only want hard copies or MP3’s to put on CD-R and my iPod…and I finally found a site to download as MP3’s. I wanted to check this out because I am a longtime Lips fan, more than a Miley fan…I DID enjoy “Bangerz” more than I expected…and even the Hannah Montana material was decent powerpop, if obviously manufactured. This “Dead Petz” opus was like a new beginning of the New Miley, and the best Flaming Lips album since “Embryonic”…although all their records are interesting warped pop. Their musical sensibilities are a perfect match really, and honestly, RCA missed out not having this record on their label!! It was not unlistenable in the least, and the album felt 100% honest, not forced or derivative. No, it’s not perfect, BUT it’s one of the better albums of 2015. There was a point when the Lips did a record with guests they called “Heady Fwiends”, one of them being the brash Kesha, and it was an alright pairing. If anything, this meeting of the muses with Miley is much more successful and works a LOT better…Wayne and Miley are a better match, and I think they both know it too. I HOPE Miley’s future contractual records build on this, rather than “Bangerz”, and I hope RCA is ready because Miley seems to only go forward, not backpedaling…future records may be a lot stranger…”Dead Petz” is not a strange, odd record at all…I was expecting it from all this “uncommercial, strange” talk. It’s honest, left-field pop that is quite listenable…at least to me…and quite moving in spots, like “Karen Don’t Be Sad”, which felt like a great Lips ballad along the lines of “The Sound Of Failure” (that song a moving, offbeat take on female pop stars doing forced pop songs), and especially “Pablow The Blowfish”, which is VERY Lips-esque, in that they can take a seemingly absurd subject and make it quite moving and sad…the loss of a blowfish pet…but Miley let out some real tears there…and she moved me too. I hope there is more to come between Miley and Wayne and the Lips and that RCA is prepared to have Miley buy out her contract because this is just the beginning of a natural pairing here…no going back…at least I hope not…

  8. I’m so glad I’m not the only person on the planet who absolutely loves this album. As soon as I heard the first few seconds I knew it was going to be interesting, and now I can’t stop listening. I was honestly surprised by all the negative reviews, so thanks for providing an on point, positive review. You’ve summed up my thoughts perfectly. This is a brilliant, and brilliantly flawed album. I only wish it were available in FLAC or another high res format- it seems too many artists don’t really care about high res releases which is a real shame.

  9. I’m so glad I’m not the only person on the planet who absolutely loves this album. As soon as I heard the first few seconds I knew it was going to be interesting, and now I can’t stop listening. I was honestly surprised by all the negative reviews, so thanks for providing an on point, positive review. You’ve summed up my thoughts perfectly. This is a brilliant, and brilliantly flawed album. I only wish it were available in FLAC or another high res format- it seems too many artists don’t really care about high res releases which is a real shame.

  10. It is a masterpiece, I own 1000ths of records. Classical, jazz, indie, name it I have it. I put the Petz mp3 files on musiccassette, because I have the feeling this is art. And I listen to it daily. And the more I listen to the Petz the more I love it. This is definitive the best, most interesting, most addictive record of 2015!

  11. Thanks for this review, I would have never actively searched out this album if I hadn’t read this and then given it a chance. It’s definitely a mess, but there’s some great stuff in there.

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