2. Hit To Death In The Future Head (1992)
Is Hit To Death more indebted to a grunge-era let-the-kids-play attitude among A&R peeps? Or were the Flaming Lips just that good at selling the suits on their vision? The band's Warners tenure has lasted about as long as the combined stints of Black Sabbath and Funkadelic, so I'm leaning toward the latter. The Flaming Lips crashed the major-label party like they weren't getting invited back: incorporating a ragged symphony of instruments, devoting the final 30 minutes of the album to an excruciating two-"note" noise loop, and holding up the album's release over the clearance of a snippet from Michael Kaman's Brazil soundtrack.
Hopefully the label brass thought it was worth the wait. Hit To Death is a slow fizz of an album, featuring the most fascinating vocal timbres in the Flaming Lips' career. It kicks off with a tremendous feat of sequencing: four consecutive woozy jams, each one weirder than the last. The Elephant 6 antecedent "Gingerale Afternoon" brings the pulse back up, only to cede to "Halloween On The Barbary Coast," which contains a majestically unfurling riff, Coyne's poignant squeak, and a masterful, barely-restrained performance on drums from Roberts.
The Flaming Lips' startling reign as guitar-pop kings begins here. Donahue and Coyne make statement after throttlingly immediate statement, their lines burrowing through the packed yet loose performances. If there can be any complaint -- assuming you've skipped that final track -- it's that the giddily overstuffed arrangements push the tracks toward thinness. But with so many worthy places for your focus -- Coyne's vocals become an instrument unto themselves in a way they wouldn't again until Embryonic -- it's not much of a complaint. It would be the best major-label debut until Brutal Juice's Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult.