Clouds Taste Metallic

05The psonics are cute – pretty but hard, as befits a hippie punk band – but only half the loony tunes sink in.

As a document of where the band’s head was, Clouds Taste Metallic has its place. The Lips toy with the studio, producing a kind of symphonic grunge. Of special note is the guitarist, Ronald Jones, whose noodle-slides and fuzzy licks define the album and this stage in the band’s career. (Think: Syd Barrett via Led Zeppelin, as fronted by Wavy Gravy.)

Later, on The Soft BulletinYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and parts of At War With the Mystics (overt to near-overt concept albums, one and all), Wayne Coyne sings much the same – “We’re out there but in here” – thumping his heart, looking up, and beseeching the stars: a determined, optimistic avowal of childlike innocence, and maintaining your equilibrium by smiling, laughing, and making a practical choice to hope despite (or because of) life. On Clouds, the band clouds the message. It’s willfully weird, but it lingers1. I’m not even sure they knew they made a concept album.

And what, pray tell, is that concept? Well, dip deep and you’ll hear a sad, cracked tale about a group of scientists who, having abandoned a hospital spaceship, run a zoo, on Earth or some interstellar landscape. They conduct experiments on each other and the animals, all in a vain but noble effort to save themselves from themselves. The animals pity the humans. Images are Cronenbergian: a man with a magical head-wound; a lobotomized man who laughs with a giraffe; a scientist whose head explodes. Needles carpet the ground. The album is a druggy Z movie shot in widescreen, to which only the soundtrack remains.

And some of the reels are missing.

1Distorted and obscure, Embryonic (2009) hearkens back to this approach.


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