4. Telepathic Surgery (1989)
The parenthetical to "Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon" is "(Fuck Led Zeppelin)" -- God only knows what that's supposed to mean, especially since the song opens with a takeoff on "Misty Mountain Hop." Influences both hip and hidebound combine into an assured collection of tuff alt-rock. "Drug Machine In Heaven" and "Right Now" pack an opening one-two punch of vintage Sonic Youth-style noise-rock, with the latter featuring some overt Townshendian flourishes. The SoCal punk rock "Redneck School Of Technology" even finds time for a ripping harmonica solo from Dallas disc jockey Craig "Niteman" Taylor. As for "Chrome Plated Suicide," Coyne later allowed that "someone showed me the chords to ‘Sweet Child O' Mine.'" They did much more than that: He tracks the vocal melody studiously, and even refers to being "taken away."
Alongside their newfound confidence to kick out the jams, the Lips show off an increased comfort with recording possibilities. The album was originally planned as a full-length sonic collage, but the band's poppier instincts prevailed, to a point. "Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory" is a three-minute edit of a 25-minute aural free-for-all that includes revving motorbikes, drone, and opera vocal warmups. "U.F.O. Story" is just that: Coyne's spoken-word patter (based on a story told to Michael Stipe) leading into a roaring, hellish full-band retelling, chased with an Richard English-performed piano coda that's halfway between Wyndham Hill and Van Halen.
Telepathic Surgery brings the band's acid-punk phase to a close. English would depart after this record, and the Flaming Lips began their longstanding relationship with producer/engineer Dave Fridmann. They would continue learning how to embed their beloved backmasked samples and orgiastic ruckus into compositions instead of making them standalone events. Just a few months after the release of their most righteous racket, the reconstituted lineup was back in the studio.