The Flaming Lips | The Terror (Warner Bros.)

flaming-lips-the-terrorThe music of The Terror is striking, a perfect balance of chilling and soothingly hypnotic at the same time.

 

Trading in their balloons and confetti for a trippy light show, electronic instruments hidden inside toy babies, and a bleak outlook, The Flaming Lips released The Terror to much hype and heavy marketing. Their 13th studio album is full of typical Lips eccentricities, but sheds some of the kitsch factor for some seriously great musical elements, lush layers, dark lyrics, and perplexing topics. While the album is one of their most austere releases to date, it’s a refreshing, almost calming record that facilitates Coyne & Co.’s ability to step outside their boundaries and simultaneously keep their wacky existentialism. Steven Drozd’s compositions on The Terror are rich and textured with varying synthesizers and electronic flair, while Wayne Coyne’s vocals perform eerie swirls, choruses, and mantras.

The Terror was constructed with the intent of being a concept album—there are no singles and the album as a whole tells a story. The Terror is a testament to the trying and painful period both Coyne (separated from his girlfriend of 25 years) and Drozd (following a heroin relapse) went through during the album’s production. Each song on the album isn’t so much a song, but an episode or chapter in search of an answer through Coyne’s contemplative state. Song titles like “Look…The Sun Is Rising” and “You Are Alone” give the listener a peek in to the singer/songwriter’s world and his idea of human suffering and observation.

The music of The Terror is striking, a perfect balance of chilling and soothingly hypnotic at the same time. Large chunks of songs are repetitive and atmospheric. “Be Free, A Way” feels like an electronic church hymn, and even begs the religious/philosophical question: “Is the love the god that we control? To try to trust the pain.” “You Lust,” the album’s longest track, is a mesmerizing aria in which Coyne valiantly protests, “You’ve got a lot of nerve, a love of nerve to fuck with me/ Better kill your emperor, ’cause you know you’re just like me,” and features Drozd whispering “lust to succeed” in intermittent cadences. “The Terror” feels like a post-apocalyptic death march with its up-tempo bass drum/hi-hat pulse, trembling keyboard lines, and ethereal choral vocals.

The overall tone and tempo of The Terror isn’t nearly as welcoming as something like Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, though it does justice to the Lips’ overall philosophy and aesthetic just as much as records past. After 30 successful and spirited years, it’s only a natural progression for The Flaming Lips to turn inward and explore the darker, more confounding elements in life. After all, “Look…the Sun Is Rising” here is merely the other side of Yoshimi’s “Do You Realize??” coin. | Jenn Metzler

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