Published Nov 25, 2015On Heady Nuggs 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic, the Flaming Lips trip backwards through the products of their delightfully paranoid minds — through machine-infiltrated, insect-infested and otherwise nightmare-ridden opuses — to return to their 1995 classic. The record forever altered the trajectory of their careers, sending the band spiralling off into strange, psychedelic sonic locales that they've been exploring for decades. Now, to celebrate its 20-year anniversary, the Flaming Lips have relaunched the collection as part of the Heady Nuggs 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic box set.
Heady Nuggs 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic arrives in the form of a three-CD set and seven-LP collection. The first disc includes the entirety of Clouds Taste Metallic; the second is a 1994 compilation called Due to High Expectations… The Flaming Lips are Providing Needles for Your Balloons and the amassment of oddities that is The King Bug Laughs; the third comprises recordings from a live performance in Seattle, 1996, functionally titled Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles (Live in Seattle 1996). The quality oscillates wildly between studio recordings and live performances — sometimes, it's reduced to muddled shit as Wayne Coyne mutters between songs — but the highs and lows make this a beautiful trip for Lips completists.
Disc one opens with the twinkling keys of "The Abandoned Hospital Ship" before the meteoric crescendo comes showering down. Clouds Taste Metallic is drenched in these kinds of riffs, played mostly by Ronald Jones, who abandoned ship after the album. His departure sparked great change, as drummer Steve Drozd chose to pick up the slack on guitar. Rather than filling the percussive void with new flesh, the Flaming Lips enlisted machines; thus began their experimentation with loops and backing tracks. These trials were also the origins of the Flaming Lips' famously overblown live performances.
The celebration continues onto disc two, which is split between a collection of rarities and a briefly available EP from 1994. After the sunshiny number "Bad Days," the compilation keeps on glowing with cheerfully nostalgic tracks like "Chewin' the Apple of Yer Eye," "Nobody Told Me" and, of course, "She Don't Use Jelly." The Lips also offer some covers, including Smog's "Chosen One" and an utterly abysmal, if charming, rendition of Bowie's "Life On Mars."
The Flaming Lips buried the real treasures of Heady Nuggs 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic in the third disc, which features previously unreleased recordings of their performance at Moe's in Seattle on May 10, 1996. It's full of lo-fi relics from their grungy, slacker-rock era such as "Placebo Headwound," "Unconsciously Screaming," "Take Meta Mars" and "Lightning Strikes the Postman." However, the true gold is in Coyne's rambling anecdotes, which are hidden throughout the screwball soundscape. He tells a particularly captivating tale over "Put the Waterbug in the Policeman's Ear" about Xanax-addled hallucinations and an authority-defying gang of insects.
That performance was captured following one year of experimentation incited by Clouds Taste Metallic, suggesting that the monsters in Coyne's mind grew quite rapidly. Two decades later, his collection of absurd creatures has grown to include pink robots, mystics, nightmare bats and shape shifters — but as Heady Nuggs 20 Years After Clouds Metallic indicates, the vengeful bugs still hold their own. (Warner)