Do Clouds Still Taste Metallic?
The end of a transformation for The Flaming Lips
By Andy Valentine
1983 is important for many reasons in our world. It’s a song by Jimi Hendrix; it’s also the year Return of the Jedi was released, the Tokyo Disneyland opened and KISS first appeared on TV without makeup. But all of these momentous events seem obsolete in the face of one thing: ’83 marked the formation of the psychedelic, fuzz driven, colorful, magical, beautifully wild, shows-that-will-reputedly-blow-your-mind Flaming Lips.
Hailing from Oklahoma City, the Lips fuel their music with a range of different influences and styles. Dreamy vocals echo between fuzzy synthesizers and flanged guitars to create a symphony of psychedelia, while mid-tempo drums carry the listener along through an array of flowing melodies, licks and breaks — techniques reminiscent of those found on Pink Floyd’s cosmic Dark Side of the Moon. In testament to this Floydian influence, The Flaming Lips recently covered the entire Dark Side of the Moon album, and boy, did they do it well. Currently the Lips are touring to back last year’s Embryonic, and they’ll only be making one stop in Oregon. How lucky we are that they chose our McDonald Theatre for that stop.
Now imagine, if you will, a stage. Throw in some naked people, some Teletubbies, bubbles, aliens, bouncy balls, confetti, lights, giant hands, microphones and instruments. Now make the entire thing explode into color and life. You’re at a Lips show and the world is bursting at the seams with beautiful rays of light. This might sound a little more like a carnival than a concert, but that’s just the point.
Since Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was released in 2002, it seems as though the Lips’ older albums have become lost in a haze of fuzzy, mellow-artistic engineering. There is certainly no denying that Yoshimi and At War With the Mystics are solid records, but they indicate that the group’s slow transformation into a psychedelic funny-house band is drawing to a close.
In 1995, Clouds Taste Metallic blasted the ears off of those people who had managed to hear about the Flaming Lips — most of them probably hanging on every note of “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which was released in 1993 — and this slop infested, psychedelic, noise driven masterpiece left an impact that seemed like it could be everlasting. Unfortunately, those days of noisy, gain-up-too-high slop rock seem to be over for the Lips, and their recent music has gained an art-rock quality that still aims to please but won’t entirely satisfy those fans from the ’90s.
Embryonic, however, has a lot more old-Lips style mixed into it than the previous two albums (especially At War With the Mystics), and this gives great hope to fans of the dirty production and sound effects of Transmissions from the Satellite Heart and Clouds Taste Metallic. Fingers crossed that the Flaming Lips will soon find the perfect way to blend their older, crazier stuff with their cunningly engineered post-millennium sound. As of now, Embryonic is the closest example of this.
Back at that carnival things are still going wild, and you love it. You love yourself and everyone around you. Here’s where the Flaming Lips have truly succeeded in leaving a mark — friendship and connection. So is it ultimately a bad thing that they have transitioned from a sloppy, noisy rock band to a colorful, well-produced dream machine? The answer is undoubtedly no. They’ll still rock you sideways.
The Flaming Lips, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. 9 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29. McDonald Theatre • SOLD OUT