Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clouds Taste Metallic (#1, 1995), 20 Years
of Weird (#4, 2006) - The Flaming Lips


Like I said in the Flaming Lips Discograph, I put Clouds Taste Metallic (1995) at the top of the Lips classics pyramid. With In a Priest Driven Ambulance with Silver Sunshine Stares (1990) and The Soft Bulletin (1999) directly below.

These clouds are real!!!
The evocative but irrelevant title, reputedly suggested by an airplane coversation with the band Tool, gets mirrored on many of the songs. "The Abandoned Hospital Ship," "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles," "Placebo Headwound"... what does it all mean?! Nothing but great music: The album starts out with a film projector fluttering, soft piano, crackling guitar disruption, and Wayne Coyne singing like he means it. When the levee breaks, there is more bombast, guitar noise, tubular bells, and yet still a hovering sadness. "Needles" also follows a quiet electrical storm intro into a full-on rocker... about how a mixed-up food chain leads back to King Bug. Then "Placebo" asks the cosmic (and mundane) questions that Wayne would later become famous for: "And if God hears all my questions, then how come there's never an answer?" The classics roll on throughout the whole record, mixing insight with the whimsical, darkness with the lovely. And sometimes just the fun...

Apparently, "Lightning Strikes The Postman" is about the only song written by Ronald Jones, who again was such an awe-inspiring lead guitarist. Also one of the few older songs to remain in the live set up until these days. The album wraps up with two bests of the best. The acoustic folkiness of "Evil Will Prevail" - folk as in "The magic bullet is the glowing mothership." And the righteous power-pop would-be mega-hit "Bad Days" - pop stuff like "You hate your boss at your job, but in your dreams you can blow his head off. In your dreams, show no mercy." How was this not a hit single? How was this not a best-selling album?!

As "Wayne's Intro... Smoking a 'J' with the Fearless Freaks" (the first track) explains, 20 Years of Weird (2006) started off as a handout for the SXSW showing of The Fearless Freaks, a 2005 documentary about the band. It sounds even better than the Warner release. For one, it probably didn't have "Free Radicals," which sounds like the Flaming Lips doing Ween doing Prince. But doing it poorly. On the plus side, it does have "Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear" which was a much beloved and discussed song from the doc's never-released soundtrack. The rest is a sequential wander through the bootleg archives.

1986: "With You," the opening track of the debut full-length LP. 1988: "Whole Lotta Love/You Can't Stop the Spring," from the Exorcist-themed show. 1990 or 1991: "Shine on Sweet Jesus," with now-super-producer Dave Fridmann on keyboard. 1994: "Space Age Love Song," Flock of Seagulls cover at Ronald's behest. 1995: "Moth in the Incubator," Drozd!!! 1996: "When You Smile > Psychiatric Explorations," an epic couple of songs from Clouds. 1996: "Sleeping on the Roof," from the 1st Parking Lot Experiment. It would end up as the final track on The Soft Bulletin. 2003: "The Observer," yet another instrumental from the same album. This kind of thing would soon win the Lips a couple of Grammys.

They also released a double-album of new material in 2006, At War With The Mystics. It was just alright...

And that's the end for this explosion of Flaming Lips!

Clouds Taste Metallic
Official -
Myspace -
Purchase - Amazon
iTunes - The Flaming Lips

Genre - Maximum Freak-Out Guitar-Pop
Review - Rolling Stone

20 Years of Weird
Purchase - Amazon
iTunes - The Flaming Lips

Genres - Noisy Heavy Rock to Skewed Psychedelic Pop
Review - Pitchfork

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