In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
In a few weeks, The Flaming Lips will release The Terror, the band’s 13th full-length album and the freak flag that marks the latest phase in its three-decade career. The Terror is a beguiling extension of the dark, circuit-bent psychedelia of 2009’s Embryonic; it’s also an extension of the Lips’ bid to be the humbler, better-adjusted Pink Floyd of the 2010s. Wayne Coyne and company deserve big props for being able to reinvent themselves so many times in 30 years, all the while retaining some semblance of vitality—and I say that as someone whose favorite version of the band issued its swan song seven years ago with At War With The Mystics. And even then, those Flaming Lips aren’t responsible for my favorite song in the band’s now-everlasting repertoire: That distinction goes to “Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World,” a cut from 1995’s oft-overlooked Clouds Taste Metallic.
Here are the dying gasps of The Flaming Lips that rode a fluky hit to chart stardom and a Beverly Hills, 90210 cameo: Steven Drozd’s monolithic drumming, the bone-scraping guitar noise of Ronald Jones, and the goofy, voice-warping production effects that are all over Clouds Taste Metallic and its immediate predecessor, Transmissions From The Satellite Heart. And yet, in the narrative of Coyne’s vocals, there’s a DayGlo sign pointing to the band’s future. After the sound and fury of the alternative revolution died down, The Flaming Lips would secure their legacy with tales like the one told in “Guy Who Gets A Headache,” story songs of normal people overcoming insurmountable odds through both coincidence and cunning. I prefer The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots as a whole, but if I want a concentrated dose of what I love about The Flaming Lips—the tempered optimism of The Soft Bulletin’s “Race For The Prize,” but also the sugary fuzz-pedal buzz that left the band along with Jones—I’ll reach for Clouds Taste Metallic. Especially after spending so much time with The Terror, a tremendous head-trip record that’s also a tremendous bummer; there’s no purer yin to the new record’s yang like faux-newsman Wayne Coyne declaring “Looks like brighter days are ahead for the whole planet.”