01 April 2013
2013 marks The Flaming Lips’ 30th anniversary. Cause for mass celebration then! Let’s get the candles on the cake… After all that’s 30 years of restlessly resisting classification, 30 years of playfully inverting expectations, 30 years of crafting some of the finest, noisiest, weirdest, dreamiest, surreal, emotionally affecting pop known to human ears. They’ve managed that rarest of feats; juggling critical acclaim with popular success. Since hitting the mainstream at the turn of the millennium with the undisputed classic albums ‘The Soft Bulletin’ and ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’ Wayne Coyne and co have disrespected every convention thrown at them with the pomp and ceremony of their legendary live shows only being the tip of the iceberg (anyone remember Coyne popping up on Google maps having a bath on his front lawn?). Since 2009’s meditative ‘Embryonic’ The Flaming Lips took to covering Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ in full and a collaboration album featuring such diverse and luminary guests as Nick Cave, Lightning Bolt, Yoko Ono and, er, Ke$ha.
So, in true character 13th studio album ‘The Terror’ is another canonical curve ball, and a decidedly lo-fi psychedelic affair. Vintage Moog synths dominate the opener ‘Look… The Sun is Rising’ and it’s initially apparent that it paints a darker hue than previous albums with Coyne’s lyrics more introspective and vulnerable. Maybe they OD’d on the Pink Floyd paranoia but ‘The Terror’ is the Ronseal Wood Paint of Flaming Lips albums – perfectly capturing the titular sense of anxiety, fragility and dread but writ large in acid-hued technicolour. The stadium-sized chorus to ‘Try to Explain’ is rephrased amidst post-industrial electronic noise and church organs as Coyne implores “Try then walking away on a bridge to nowhere, Try to explain why you’ve changed, I don’t think I’ll understand”.
The album highlight comes with the 13 minute restrained solar freak out of ‘You Lust’ which is pinned on a synth line not dissimilar to one you may expect to hear in a John Carpenterfilm. It constantly promises a cathartic crescendo but teases us at every juncture before dissolving into pensive electronic tones. In a sense it’s classic Flaming Lips as it harks back to their formative freeform experimentation as exemplified to such great skill on the conceptual ‘Zaireeka’ album. ‘The Terror’, the self titled crux of the album, relishes in throwing dissonance against the harmonious whilst Coyne’s hushed melodies battle for space against the warbling machines of yesteryear’s future.
‘Butterfly, How Long it Takes to Die’ takes propulsive free jazz drumming and marries it against scratching guitar stabs and ethereal electronic washes. ‘Turning Violent’ oscillates on brooding modular synth warbles interspersed with cacophonies of feedback segueing into album closer ‘Always There… In our Hearts’ which gives the final purging, ecstatic release that this tense and anxious album has promised up to this point.
‘The Terror’ is a taught album; never losing sight of it’s single-minded aim to perturb and unease. It’s almost redundant to try and pigeon hole The Flaming Lips but if one were to be bold it would be fair to say that ‘The Terror’ is a retro-futurist mood peace and, in many respects, their own ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.
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