13. Hear It Is (1986)
Ignore Michael Ivins's tonsorial homage to Robert Smith on the cover, and the title's bop-era pun: This is a prime slice of jangly college rock. The record is monochromatic, less acidic than basic, despite the presence of a song entitled "Staring At Sound" (and the rumor that the back cover -- a close-up of drummer Richard English's eye -- was photographed when he was tripping on LSD). "Unplugged" is (har) a fully electrified rockabilly punker; "Man From Pakistan" is a ragged little tale of police brutality that breaks open a couple times, allowing Ivins's flanged bass to presage the band's future melodicism. Taking over the vocal duties from his brother Mark, who left the band after a smattering of EPs, Coyne's register is the deepest it'll ever be, which restricts his melodic contributions.
Still, he has his moments: "Trains Brains And Rain" owes a debt to R.E.M., but tries to repay it with BoDeans. On "Godzilla Flick," if you look close, you can almost see Warner Bros.-era Mike Mills holding down the wall of backing vocals. "With You," with its hammy soft-loud dynamics and noise-rock freakout solo, is the kind of paralyzed love song the Lips would place on albums from time to time; evidently, they liked the tune so much they included it as a reprise at the end of the record.