Clouds Taste Metallic

We all used to think Oklahoma City, Okla., was the very center of staid normalcy. The abnormal, unbalanced people all lived in San Francisco or New York. Anyone who has been listening to Oklahoma City's Flaming Lips must have suspected that there was something going on out there besides PTA meetings and Sunday-school picnics. The Flaming Lips, however, don't subscribe to the black-helicopter-right-wing-militia theories — theirs is a sunnier sort of paranoia.

A Top 40 hit ("She Don't Use Jelly") and an appearance on Beverly Hills, 90210 had fans fearing that the band was on the verge of turning virtually normal. But they can rest easy. Clouds Taste Metallic doesn't compromise the Lips' psychedelic vision.

Wayne Coyne is still singing about spaceships and animals in his weepy Neil Young-ish voice, backed by Beach Boys harmonies, fuzz guitar and sound effects. But determined to be more than just a Dr. Demento staple, the Lips have included some songs that even manage to be strangely touching, like the pseudolove song "When You Smile" ("When you smile, all of the subatomic pieces come together and unfold themselves in seconds") and the holiday ditty "Christmas at the Zoo" (about someone who tries to free the animals, although the animals decide they would rather just stay in their cages), as well as some darker songs like "Psychiatric Exploration of the Fetus With Needles" and "Evil Will Prevail." But for the most part, aside from the pounding, punkish drums, grungy guitar and slick '90s production, it might as well be the Summer of Love as far as the Lips are concerned — albeit sometime late in August, just when the acid is starting to go bad.