(October 12th sees the release of the Flaming Lips double LP, Embryonic.  Since August we’ve been looking back on some of the band’s pre-Soft Bulletin moments)

clouds taste metallicThe last significant, and best, album of the Flaming Lips’ guitar-heavy vision that ran from their inception up until the late 90s, is undoubtedly 1995’s Clouds Taste Metallic. It spawned no major singles (whether in terms of their freak Top 40 “She Don’t Use Jelly,” or the alternate-universe hits of The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi..) and brought to an amazing zenith the pursuit of pop perfection and chaotic noise that the band had been after for the previous few albums. They would eventually go chase some other rabbit in the form of The Soft Bulletin and its successors, and even release a stunningly executed but undercooked 4 CD album in the form of Zaireeka first, but Clouds Taste Metallic is the finest distillation of their 90s manifest.

The band had hit its Brian-Wilson-acid-fried stride with Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, but there were still other places to venture. Thankfully not shying away from the gigantic drums that had defined the pulse of Transmissions.., the album opens with a wandering, static slow-burn in the form of “The Abandoned Hospital Ship.” From there, it’s songs that alternate between moments of space-staring and sheer pop thrills (“Placebo Headwound,” “Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles,” “When You Smile“) and songs that nail down a structure and wring every last bit of noise and power out of them.

And it’s these songs that ultimately lift Clouds Taste Metallic above its predecessors. “Kim’s Watermelon Gun” is one of the finest pure rock moments of their career, careening with abandon over its three-minutes, leaving moments of noisy harmony in its wake. “Christmas at the Zoo” has Wayne Coyne actually telling a coherent story and it pays dividends as the song swoops through its odd tale. “Evil Will Prevail” and “Bad Days” offer album closing moments that allow the album to come down from its heights, but “Lightning Strikes the Postman” is quite possibly the best song in the Lips’ oeuvre. Full of short lulling moments, fuzzy, fractured guitars, cavernous drums and Coyne’s delightfully bizarre story of the world’s unluckiest postman (and the world’s unluckiest mail sender), “Lightning Strikes the Postman” represents everything that was right about the Flaming Lips and everything that would arguably start to disappear after this record. By the next time they would make an album this focused and complete, it would be 1999, it would be called The Soft Bulletin, and a new age for the band would have begun.  words/ j. neas

MP3: The Flaming Lips :: Kim’s Watermelon Gun
MP3: The Flaming Lips :: Lightning Strikes the Postman

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9 Responses to “Revisiting :: Clouds Taste Metallic”

  1. I love “Lightning Strikes the Postman.”

  2. Best post on the inner-nets. Love this album!

  3. My absolute favorite album by them. I cannot believe they don’t play Kim’s Watermelon Gun live, that song would be incredible to hear.

  4. This would be one of my desert island discs. I love this album. I saw them on this tour, Ronald was still in the band. Blew away anything they have done live since.

  5. I love this album, but I still feel Transmissions blows this album away. And of course the Soft Bulletin blows all other Lips albums away. Though having said this, what I’ve heard of their Embryonic sound like their moving back to the Soft Bulletin sound and I’m glad to hear it. Steven Drozd IS the flaming lips.

  6. I always argue this point, but no one has ever heard this album. Plus live at this point they were a BAND, not playing along with a tape recording so they could PLAY.

  7. “Transmissions”, “Hit to Death” and “Yoshimi” are far better than this album. Sure, it’s good, but you seem a bit bitter about it. I don’t actually think “Clouds Taste Metallic” is focused at all.

  8. It doesn’t have to be focused to be great. This is the band’s high-water mark. Jeff is correct in his take re:Ronald Jones. His guitar playing works perfectly with the rest of the band.I just wish he stuck around longer.

    And…there’s no way the whimiscal happy glow on “Yoshimi” comes even close to this.

  9. Great post! Agreed this is their strongest album. The production values have improved immensely but the song writing is phenomenal on this album

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