Can you believe it has been 20 long years since the Flaming Lips released their major label debut album, ‘Hit to Death in the Future Head,’ which dropped this week back in August 1992? In retrospect, two decades passing seems very appropriate, considering how much the band’s sonic blueprint has changed — and considering their now-veteran status and long-running success. But 20 years ago, the Lips getting inked to Warner didn’t seem 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, the 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. Twenty years later, and the sonic experimentation currently being undertaken by the Lips is no less bold, but certainly isn’t nearly as self-indulgent.

Watch the Flaming Lips’ ‘Frogs’ Video

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