Laughing Hyenas

Merry Go Round

Touch and Go Records

It isn't a flattering reflection on the current state of music when the best thing I've heard over the past few months originally came out in 1987.

In fairness, though, it would be hard to top this re-issue of the long- out-of-print first release from Michigan's Laughing Hyenas. Recorded with the original lineup (which is, with no offense to the current members, the definitive Laughing Hyenas roll call) Merry Go Round shows the band's hardcore roots, before the Stones influence that crept into, and later dominated, their more recent albums.

Merry Go Round is flawed in some aspects; the band was younger and more naive (check out the lyrics to "Hell's Kitchen") during this recording than on later classics like Life Of Crime and You Can't Pray A Lie. Still, all the elements that have made them such a great band are present, the solid rhythm section of Kevin Strickland and Jim Kimball, the intricate guitar of Larissa Strickland and, most of all, John Brannon's unholy howl.

The real treat here lies in the bonus tracks. Okay, the live version of "Dedications To the One I Love" is hardly needed (and a curious choice for a live song, since "Dedications" isn't one of the Hyenas' more energetic efforts). And "Don't Bouge My High," an unreleased song from the Life Of Crime era, isn't bad, but it's hardly vital.

The other two, however, are worth the price of the CD alone. "Candy," previously available only as the B-side to the "Here We Go Again" single, is not only probably the best Hyenas song ever, but it's in the running for best song ever, anywhere, by anyone. It's pure aggression, and, years after I first heard it, "Candy" still makes me want to punch a hole in the wall.

We also get a version of Alice Cooper's "Public Animal #9," (with great backing vocals by Mule's P.W. Long) which came out originally on some absurdly rare Sub Pop thing. It's more "good ol' rock 'n roll" than hardcore, but it's a great take on the old song and a welcome addition to this release.

Don't want to live in the past here, but Merry Go Round renders 90 percent of stuff coming out today irrelevant. Pick this up for a look at what music can be.G.D.

Flaming Lips

Clouds Taste Metallic

Warner Brothers

It's a largely accepted rule of rock 'n' roll that the further a band gets from their initial batch of recordings, the more they start to suck. Running against this almost uniform tradition is Clouds Taste Metallic, the Flaming Lips eighth (!) record and their best yet.

In fact, the Lips only really started to hit their stride around album #5, In a Priest Driven Ambulance, and over the course of their next two releases (Hit to Death in the Future Head and Transmissions From the Satellite Heart) they really brought their loopy pop songwriting into focus.

Pulling elements from 60s psychedelia (Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, Beatles circa '67) and fusing it with post punk trippy and fucked up hi-density noise (a million supertreated guitars, off key Neil Youngish vocals, dirty drums), the Flaming Lips have created a makeshift Frankenstein's monster of a sound. The melodies are a little more childlike in spots this time around (hopefully not a reaction to the success of "She Don't Use Jelly," the sleeper novelty-esque hit of their last album), and some of the lyrics would veer too close towards preciousness in anybody else's hands, but with the Lips it never feels forced.

Driving and catchy rockers like "Kim's Watermelon Gun" and "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus w/ Needles" sit side by side with spacier tracks like "Placebo Headwound" and the lazy slide tinged "Evil Will Prevail" seamlessly, and while it'd be fair to say that the Flaming Lips make 'drug music' (this album's "headphone mix" certainly substantiates the notion), they avoid silly cartoon revivalism.

By referencing everyone from Can to Brian Wilson, Led Zeppelin to Terry Gilliam, the Flaming Lips have managed to turn up as an American junk food original. Clouds Taste Metallicprobably won't make them superstars, but that shouldn't stop you from joining them on their trip to Brainville.J.W.

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