Clouds Taste Metallic is the Flaming Lips' dirtiest record—a mess of loops, absurd noises, and static violating unapologetically catchy riffs. Released in 1995, two years after Transmissions from the Satellite Heart and the MTV phenomenon of "She Don't Use Jelly," Clouds was their seventh record, and supporting it nearly caused to the band to combust; tensions accrued during recording and the year of touring that followed helped send guitarist Ronald Jones packing. As a result, the Lips were never the same again, both in lineup and sound. The album proved to be both destructive and a major breakthrough. It also shoved the remaining members of the band into a fit of experimentation they have yet to calm down from.
The record opens with a three-minute curiosity titled "The Abandoned Hospital Ship." The song begins with what sounds like an old reel-to-reel projector firing up, Wayne Coyne's nasal pitch is distorted to near oblivion as he sings, "Well, it took some time/'Cause it's a lot/God, it's a bunch/It's such a big, old, black golden buzz..." A simple tune from piano and guitar accompanies the words, which seem almost apologetic in their delivery—until, at 1:43, the gears suddenly grind dramatically into a beat-down of noise. As a song, "Hospital Ship" is not really a song at all—mostly instrumental, all-building freak-out with no real structure—but it serves as a perfect precursor for the 12 unruly tracks to follow.
"Lightning Strikes the Postman" starts out climbing and threatens to never stop. "Kim's Watermelon Gun" pummels with an almighty racket with few reprieves. The most challenging track on the record, "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles," flirts with being outright unlistenable, its layers so distorted you might wonder if your speakers have blown. Every song here is so intricately assembled that the record is at constant risk of collapsing into incomprehension. That precariousness, along with the fact that it just plain rocks, earns Clouds Taste Metallic heavy rotation from every respectable Flaming Lips fan, old or recent.