Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hit to Death in the Future Head -- The Flaming Lips -- Review

Hit to Death in the Future Head (1992)
Rating: 10
"I'm waiting for the frogs to fall down on me"
Best Song: Frogs
Worst Song: The Sun's a little better, I guess. This was the band's first album on Warner Bros., and while you can tell this to some degree (the arrangements are quite a bit busier than those on Priest), it's still basically in the same vein as the previous album: lots of guitar noise, a good bit of filler, and a handful of great tracks. 
       Let's get the filler out of the way first -- "The Sun" and "Felt Good to Burn" are complete throwaways. They're not horrible, but they're utterly forgettable, and from a band as weird as this one...that's a pretty harsh accusation. I mean, I suppose this ridiculously drugged-out atmosphere of "Felt Good to Burn" is semi-interesting, and the trumpet line that keeps popping up in "The Sun" is pretty cool, but that's about all the positives I can give you for these tracks. "Hit Me Like You Did the First Time" always strikes me as having a good, memorable melody, but there's something really awkward about the track that I just can't place my finger on. I dunno, all the assorted pieces just don't mesh well for me, and while it's not a bad track, it's certainly not one of the album's high spots. (Fun fact: I've heard a few bootlegs from around this period of the band's history, and "Hit Me" seems to work much better live. I guess the increase in speed and energy helps to tighten it up.)
       Fortunately, the rest of the album fares much better. On most of the album's uptempo tracks, the band seems to be going for a sound that could only be described as "exhilarating". The foremost thing in my head when I hear rockers like "Everyone Wants to Live Forever" and "The Magician vs. the Headache" is speed, and it's extremely fun to listen to. The way these tracks rush through the speakers, riding on waves of distortion, noise, and various overdubs always leaves me with a smile on my face, despite the fact that at a basic level these songs aren't that great. Sure, the melodies are passable, and the riffs are fine, but everything here is just very...basic. Enjoyable, but basic.
       Well, except for the 6-minute "Halloween on the Barbary Coast". The vocal melody here is actually really great, and I adore the various Middle-Eastern touches all over the instrumental breaks. Sitars, backwards horns, something that kinda sounds like a tabla, sounds like something George Harrison would've made back in his Hari Krishna days. Of course, I doubt that George would've incorporated these instruments into a goofy rock song with lyrics about "retards" and "sh*t for brains", but hey. That's why we love these guys, right?
       We also love them for making magnificent rock anthems about what else but Egyptian plagues. I'm obviously speaking of "Frogs", my personal favorite track from the album. The sea of guitar effects works wonderfully here, the melody is top-notch, and it all combines to make what is easily the best song the Lips had made at this point in their career. A classic.
       Hey, it's not bad. I can't really decide if I like this or Priest better, and while neither of them are particularly essential, if you're a fan of the band you should certainly check them out. And it should go without saying that "Frogs" is a must-hear.

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