Originally published in the Hindu Sunday Magazine on May 12th, 2013
The Flaming Lips – The Terror
Psychedelic rock freaks The Flaming Lips have done it all – six hour songs, 24 hour jams, skulls made of edible gum (although I wouldn’t eat it), vinyl records pressed from blood, and of course, their annual New Year’s Eve countdowns. To call The Flaming Lips crazy is an understatement. Their latest aural experiment is called The Terror. Their previous ‘album,’ if you discount the six-hour song ‘Found A Star On The Ground’, was Embryonic, a journey that was happy, chaotic and shattering in many ways. This band clearly loves writing through a theme, but not a concept on their albums. The Terror is exactly what the name conveys – dark, haunting and eerie soundscapes.
Like all psychedelic music, this album needs patience and a lot of time. Vocalist Wayne Coyne and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd take 13 minutes with ‘You Lust’, a psychotic trip that acts a prelude to the title track. ‘The Terror’ barely has words, and even when you hear them, they’re lost in the haze of modulated delay and echo effects. The only refrain you can hear on ‘You Are Alone’, is Drozd and Coyne confusing you by taking turns saying, “you’re not alone/you are alone.”
The tribal psychedelic vibe kicks in with repetitive, trance-inducing drumming on songs like ‘Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die’ and you begin to lose them a bit when ‘Turning Violent’ comes on, which seems a little obtuse or lacklustre, making you just want to sit through the song. Again, just like on ‘You Lust’, we’re led into the cinematic, poignant and noisy album closer ‘Always There In Our Hearts’. It’s quite similar to the eerie album opener, ‘Look… The Sun Is Rising’, which not only refers to the image on the album cover, but quickly sinks in a terrifying feeling within in a minute, when Coyne sings, “There is a little spaceship/Hiding in the clouds/You want it to love you/Let’s keep the voices down” over steely guitars.
You could end up missing a few songs if lose attention while listening to The Terror, but that’s kind of The Flaming Lips’ challenge – they want you to pick up on the subtleties, but also want you to space out on their ambient trip. On another listen, the entire album can be one seamless 55-minute journey into a dark corner. But if none of this is your scene, the band had their non-album single, ‘Sun Blows Up Today,’ a gooey, synth-guitar-drums frenzy of a track released, probably just to throw fans off track regarding the real sound of the album.