The Flaming Lips made their first album in 1986. For three decades, the Oklahoma City outfit has been concocting psychedelic freakouts and synthetic symphonies, addled power-pop and ambient experiments, loony tunes and dissertations on mortality. Today, we’re ranking the band’s albums in order of awesomeness.

Although they came out of the punk tradition – founders Wayne Coyne and Michael Ivins could barely play their instruments initially – they also loved the Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and other “enshrined” bands that would induce vomiting in the underground. But Coyne and co. gravitated toward the big sounds and concepts of those groups; they were soon able to merge mind-altering sonics with ramshackle tactics.

The band made a freaky, religious concept album. They played fiery (literally) shows and got signed to Warner Bros. At the peak of alternative, the band sharpened their songwriting, had a novelty hit (“She Don’t Use Jelly”) and hired new drummer Steven Drozd – who steadily became the Lips’ multi-instrumentalist MVP.

Coyne, Ivins and Drozd (with the help of producer Dave Fridmann) steered the band away from guitar-driven music and into lush, experimental recordings that maintained a fragile, human core. These efforts resulted in some of the most lauded and loved LPs in the band’s career. Around the same time, the Lips gained a reputation for cartoony concert that featured fake blood, dancing Santas, UFOs and the infamous walking bubble.

The live show remains, more or less, wackily intact, but the Lips have reinvented themselves yet again as a proggier, experimental and pseudo-ambient recording artists. They’ve also shown a penchant for collaboration, especially on refashionings of full albums by Pink Floyd and the Beatles.

Before we begin, a quick note on what Flaming Lips releases are included in this ranking. We’re focusing on the 17 full-length records (to date) available to the masses – so no 24-hour songs, USBs encased in gummy skulls or other niche projects. We’ve left out the soundtrack to the Lips’ midnight movie, Christmas on Mars, because it wasn’t designed to stand alone (and is only available with the film). That said, there are plenty of bending ceilings, psychiatric explorations and futuristic crashendos ahead. The countdown begins… now.

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