The-FLaming-Lips-M-Review-No25THE FLAMING LIPS

The Terror

[Warner Bros.]

No matter how much melancholy courses through their catalog, the Flaming Lips will always be known as a celebratory band. That’s more a product of their live shows—confetti-strewn freak-outs that feature frontman Wayne Coyne rolling over fans in a giant plastic ball—than it is their albums, though career highlights The Soft Bulletin (1999) and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) offset sadness with lush, cosmic, calming psychedelia. Not so on The Terror, which offers space rock of a different variety. The synths on openers “Look…the Sun Is Rising” and “Be Free, a Way” flicker like fluorescent bulbs on a burned-out lunar station, while the scraping guitars and pulsing kraut-rock rhythms add menace to Coyne’s lyrics. “When you really listen,” he sings, “fear is all you hear.” In fact, that’s not all you hear—“Try to Explain” manages Beach Boyish blissfulness amid the bleakness—but Coyne’s not kidding when he says the Lips have made a “disturbing record” about life in the absence of love. On a disc loaded with potential thesis statements—“Turning Violent,” “Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die,” etc.—“You Are Alone” functions as a centerpiece, accomplishing in four minutes what other tracks do in double or triple that time. With its alarm-like throb, the tune finds Coyne debating whether he’s truly alone. It’s fascinating listening—a sharp left turn in a catalog full of such moves—but if this is what it sounds like in Coyne’s bubble, someone ought to prick it with a pin. –Kenneth Partridge


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