Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: The Flaming Lips - Clouds Taste Metallic

The Flaming Lips have this amazing talent for merging lovable melodies with highly experimental sounds and instrumentals. From Zaireeka onward you can hear examples of this in songs like "A Spoonful Weights A Ton" and "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion." (which I've included in a separate playlist. "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton" cannot be found on or YouTube, so you'll have to settle for a live version or iTunes).

But that's not the case with Clouds Taste Metallic. It's amazing for an entirely different reason.

Let me start by telling you about my relationship with The Flaming Lips. This is my first time listening to this band's work prior to the album Zaireeka. That album, the first without guitarist Ronald Jones, marked a change in sound for the Lips. They go from a guitar-driven alternative rock band to a synth-driven, almost electronic band. That's how I knew them. Everything I love about them can be heard in the song "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton." Wayne Coyne's voice, raspy, almost cracking, with an overexposed synthesized violin-like sound driving the background music, orchestral accompaniment and piano, all alternating with a heavy rock guitar and drums. "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" is another excellent example, with a part at about 3 minutes in that can only be described as coherent, beautiful noise that must be heard to be believed.

The last new Lips album I had listened to was Zaireeka, which is a four-disc epic meant to be played all at the same time and should be experienced by all, but is not. This, like I said, was the first time they had this kind of sound, the kind I was used to. Clouds Taste Metallic, for me, was a first for me, hearing their previous sound. And God, does it sound great.

I'm not saying it's better than their sound now. Actually, I think it's just as good, just good for a different reason. The guitar is just as distorted, but it's more prominent, and there isn't as much synthesis. The songs themselves go from fast to slow, from dark to light, from adult to childish. You can hear their lighthearted side on "This Here Giraffe," or "Christmas at the Zoo," where Coyne sings about attempting to release animals from the zoo on Christmas Eve, but who don't want to leave because "they preferred to save themselves, they seemed to think they could." Only the Flaming Lips could perform this song, because only they could pull off something as wonderful as energetic whistling coupled with upbeat, heavily distorted guitar and bass.

Strange names have been as solid a tradition of the Lips as strange lyrics. The name alone, Clouds Taste Metallic, is outrageous on its own, but song titles like "They Punctured My Yolk," "Lightning Strikes the Postman," and "Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World" that give a charming sense of nonsense to the songs. The titles range from "this makes a little sense, I suppose," to "what the fuck is this supposed to mean?" Take, for instance, "The Abandoned Hospital Ship." Alright, I can see that in my head: a large aquatic vessel at the bottom of the ocean, the red cross emblazoned on each side and overgrowing with seaweed, perhaps once used to transport injured persons across the sea. Though it might have been more practical to fly them, perhaps some can't live through the stress. Then there are names like "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles." What the hell?

Names aside, it's really hard to pick out just a few songs from the thirteen here because they're all really, really good. I often have this problem with Lips albums being entirely too good to single out just a few songs, and often I end up with favorites that are far from the actual "hits" that might have come from the album. But this time, I can't even pick out a favorite. Everything is just so good, but I can try.

Overall, you can't really go wrong with any Flaming Lips album (accept Embryonic, which might be hard on the average listener's ears, or Zaireeka, which requires four different CD players), and this album is incredible, lovable and wonderful.

PS: Sadly, because The Flaming Lips are rather obscure, a lot of songs aren't on, so you'll have to resort to YouTube once again. Sorry.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

(Please excuse the teletubies and motherfuckers.)

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