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The Flaming Lips Arrive on the Majors With ‘Hit to Death in the Future Head’

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In August 1992, after six years and four albums on indie label Restless Records, the Flaming Lips released their major label debut, Hit to Death in the Future Head. In retrospect, the move to Warner Bros. seems very appropriate, considering how much the band’s sonic blueprint has changed — and considering their now-veteran status and long-running success. But at the time, the Lips hitting the big time wasn’t an obvious move.

One listen to Hit to Death in the Future Head and the reason for that seems perfectly clear. Even in the post-Nirvana major label gold rush, this collection of a dozen rough-edged pop gems was just a little too out there and bizarre for a mainstream push. The Lips’ follow-up album, Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, had the breakthrough single “She Don’t Use Jelly” to help its crossover appeal, but there was nothing like that on Head. When an album’s most melodic song is titled “Talkin’ ‘Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever),” you know your options are limited.

Some of that weirdness definitely has to do with the way Head was recorded. “It takes us a long time to do our records, we usually just go into some bumf— studio in the middle of nowhere and hole up for four or five months,” frontman Wayne Coyne said of the band’s recording process back in ’93. “I would think it’s normal stuff that happens when people get together and basically go insane together. The process of making records is basically f—ed up.”

There aren’t a dozen pop numbers — there are 11, followed on track 12 by more than 30 minutes of crazy white noise panning back-and-forth between speakers. In retrospect, the fact that the band was even able to pad its first major-label release with such a throwaway track pretty much says it all. While the sonic experimentation currently being undertaken by the Lips is no less bold, but certainly isn’t nearly as self-indulgent.

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