Clouds Taste Metallic, the latest Flaming Lips album, sounds like it was recorded in a toy store: Cheap bells and whistles tinkle in the background as unidentifiable sounds whiz by like wind-up toys, mixing together until they become an integral part of the band's psychedelia. Even after 10 years, the Lips are still fascinated by such sounds as a piece of cardboard fluttering against bicycle spokes, marbles rolling down a wooden staircase, or the repetitive melody of an ice-cream truck.
Singer-guitarist Wayne Coyne approaches his craft with an overwhelming acid naivete; to him, every sound in the universe is important, or at least worth exploring. In fact, the sounds on Clouds are far more important than song structure. Coyne's panoramic view of pop travels the line from Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd to the Butthole Surfers, making all stops in between.
The Lips are either some the world's most clever plagiarists or latent geniuses on the verge of discovering their potential. For the Flaming Lips there are no rules. Coyne kills some perfectly fine vocal melodies with his quavering voice, while, for the most part, delicate melodies and song fragments are mangled by screeching guitars and fuzzy mayhem. The songs are beautiful cakes garnished with metal shavings. Their previous album, Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, almost fooled the mainstream based on the oddball appeal of "She Don't Use Jelly." After that they toured extensively, then retreated back to the studio to prepare further surprises.
On stage, the Flaming Lips recreate their studio wizardry by turning knobs (especially up) and stepping on pedals. The sheer overkill in the volume department metamorphoses them into a mean, loud sonic machine that produces muscular riffs bristling with verve. The mind-bending effect is similar to that of their albums, bless their satellite hearts.
The Flaming Lips perform May 24 at Trees. Richard Davies opens.
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