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The Terror

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Album Review

One of the Flaming Lips' greatest strengths is how vividly they express emotions. For most of their career, they've focused on capturing wide-eyed wonder, unbridled glee, and the occasional poignant moment, but The Terror proves they're just as good at channeling despair. Embryonic hinted at this darker shift, but here it comes to a head: sparked by Wayne Coyne's separation from his longtime partner and Steven Drozd's struggles with substance abuse, The Terror is more fragmented and anguished than its predecessor. Where Embryonic's bold swaths of noise and pulsing synths broke free of expectations, on The Terror they represent being cut loose and drifting off into loneliness and doubt. The opening track, "Look... The Sun Rising" makes it clear that this is not the Flaming Lips fans have come to expect since the late '90s. As Coyne sings "Love is always something/Something you should fear" and invokes MK Ultra, harsh guitars and beats create a wall of sound that's both claustrophobic and isolating. As dark as the album is, it's also some of the band's most fascinating music; vintage electronics buzz and whir around Coyne's wounded vocals in a way that recalls Meddle-era Pink Floyd and the Silver Apples in its spacy bleakness. The Terror was recorded in a short time and it shows in the urgency within every track, even the 13-minute centerpiece "You Lust," which moves from some of the band's most shockingly angry moments ("You've got a lot of nerve to f**k with me!," Coyne snarls at its beginning) to a delicate coda that evokes Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby. While the album often feels like a black hole sucking up all the hope in the universe, to the band's credit, they're never too obvious about it. Coyne's largely philosophical lyrics are all the more striking in how they imply this feeling rather than just stating it, particularly on one of the loveliest and scariest tracks here, "Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die." It contemplates life and death on a personal and universal scope, linking it to the sun's rising and setting; throughout the album, the band uses the sun as a metaphorical reminder that life goes on even when you wish it wouldn't. Experimental even for a band that has made outlandish sounds and ideas its bread and butter for decades, The Terror finds the Flaming Lips at the peak of their powers as they embody what it's like to be overwhelmed; they don't offer a shoulder to cry on as much as an acknowledgment of just how isolating pain can be. While it's common to call artists brave for addressing life's darker moments, there's some truth to it: it's not easy to face up to and present the worst parts of being alive, much less in a way that's artistically pleasing or relevant. The Lips don't make it sound easy, which is why The Terror is so powerful. [The U.S. vinyl version of the album featured the "Mashed-the-F-Up" remix of "We Don't Control the Controls" as a bonus track.]

Customer Reviews

Respectable doesn't mean listenable

Over the last 5 years or so, The Flaming Lips have gone from being my favorite band to being like Radiohead - a band whose music I respect but don't enjoy. If you like weird for weirds sake, this album is for you. If you want something strange to do drugs to, this album is right up your ally. If you want anything remotely hummable, though, go elsewhere, because the Flaming Lips seem intent on hammering into our heads that they are artistic, and the rules no longer apply.

A new treasure

For those looking for more out of their music than merely being hummable or dare I say - car commercial worthy - we have a gem here. I was floored by the Lips last release which has come to be one of my favorite recent releases. This album - after just a few spins has captured a like feeling. Much more studio wizardry and not as much raw feeling yet striking a similar chord. A beautiful album full of pulsing weirdness.

Embryonic fans will love it, Yoshimi/At War fans maybe not.

This album is similar to Embryonic in a lot of ways. Longer, trippier songs that flow together very nicely. With Embryonic and this album, when you are done with the album (the true album, not deluxe version), you feel like you've listened to one long amazing song. The other day, I listened to Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (which, is a very close 2nd to The Soft Bulletin for my favorite 'Lips album), anyways, what I realized is although the songs on Embryonic and The Terror aren't as radio-friendly and catchy, they are deep songs that offer more the more you listen to them. For example, a song that you didn't at first find intriguing will later pop out and you will finally realize the greatness of that song.

All in all, true Flaming Lips fans will love it, especially after more than four listens...while softer fans that liked songs like "Do You Realize??" and "The W.A.N.D" might not get it. The best advice I can give to people who dislike this album is to 1) listen to it more than once or twice and 2) realize that this is to be taken as a whole album, and not a collection of individual songs. I personally, am still getting deeper into it with each listen...and that's what I love the most about it. THE TERROR.


Formed: 1983 in Oklahoma City, OK

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Even within the eclectic world of alternative rock, few bands were so brave, so frequently brilliant, and so deliciously weird as the Flaming Lips. From their beginnings as Oklahoma weirdos to their mid-'90s pop culture breakthrough to their status as one of the most respected groups of the 2000s, the Lips rode one of the more surreal and haphazard career trajectories in pop music. An acid-bubblegum band with as much affinity for sweet melodies as blistering noise assaults, their off-kilter sound,...
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