Review: The Flaming Lips - The Terror

There aren't many acknowledged awards for the best live act but anyone who has seen The Flaming Lips will attest to the fact that they are simply one of the best at putting on a spectacular show. As the band pounds the crowd with a wall of noise, the monitors bewilder them with psychedelic visuals and Wayne Coyne quite literally lathers them; rolling into the arena inside a huge bubble, much to the dismay of a few unsuspecting people. I guess when you go to a Flaming Lips show, you know what to expect. They are colourful and eccentric and they do neo-psychedelica with such a competent panache that you long for more. Coyne described The Terror as "bleak" and "disturbing" and while that may be the case for parts of the record, it still radiates with that trademark fried Flaming Lips sound and is wonderfully textured and holistic - in both senses of the word.

Opener Look…The Sun Is Rising and Be Free, a Way blend into each other in an almost intoxicating manner, with Coyne's silky vocals playing a huge part in making the claims that this is a "bleak" or "disturbing" record less convincing. His voice has always been a pleasant one - there's no amount of distortion that can change that. The first impressions aren't bleak or disturbing then, but not for lack of trying. The first three songs are, however, delicately textured - the palm mutes of the opener and the ambience of Try to Explain combined with the vocals do well to create an ominous sense of atmosphere. 

The thirteen-minute You Lust is a somewhat regressive track and while the "lust to succeed" vocals are shoddy at best, the sprawling middle section is an enthralling instrumental trip with its constant bassline paving the way for the song to grow more and more intense as it goes on. It's just a shame that the "lust to succeed" vocals are re-introduced. Eventually, You Lust envelops into a sound which I can only construe as bringing back memories of slowly descending to the ocean floor in a bathysphere in Rapture. Perhaps this is bleak and disturbing. Or maybe I'm just too stoned.

The songs on here are unusually unmemorable as separate, unattached entities, but taken as an aggregate, The Terror blends its contradictory traits beautifully. You are Alone is at once underwhelming but it serves as a wonderful precursor to the far more ambitious Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die which itself doesn't seem to work on its own. Listen to any of these tracks individually, bar maybe Try to Explain, and there's a disappointing sense of bleakness - there's that word again - however, the lingering paranoia in all of these tracks comes together in the sum of its parts.

"We want, or wanted, to believe that without love we would disappear, that love, somehow, would save us that, yeah, if we have love, give love and know love, we are truly alive and if there is no love, there would be no life. The Terror is, we know now, that even without love, life goes on... we just go on… there is no mercy killing."

I'm not sure how much that counts as a "press release" but its arbitrary nature seems to fit well with The Terror - this thirteenth studio effort isn't going to attract the masses like At War With The Mystics, what with no real hit single in sight, but it will end up surprising unsuspecting listeners in the opposite way that a fifty two year old Wayne Coyne rolling on top of you inside a huge bubble at a Flaming Lips show surprises you. It's a genuinely interesting record because it can at once become utterly remarkable after spending huge bouts of its time in the realm of ordinary and familiar. Under the right circumstances, this is a record that no Flaming Lips fan will want to miss. Latecomers should probably start elsewhere.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

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