The Flaming Lips

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The Terror

Charlie Hearse
(observer)

The basic review goes like this- This album delivers us what we would get if the Circus Devils channeled "Pinball Mars" through "Love You"-era Beach Boys.
The long review begins with- Wayne Coyne, professed non-drug user, admits to doing drugs to make "The Terror", and professes it to be the best Lips record ever. Coincidence? Nah, there is no such thing as coincidence. Listen to...well, anything the Flaming Lips have released. If he wasn’t on ‘em he was, at the very least, near ‘em.
To call “The Terror” the greatest record they’ve ever done sounds like a bold statement, but it has the history to back it up because the Flaming Lips have, with each successive album, out-done the previous one in every way. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for “Telepathic Surgery” (props to Richard English) and needing no introduction, “Clouds Taste Metallic”, but no one can deny what they have achieved in the new millennium. I'd love to have whatever Wayne "wasn't" having during the making of most of their albums.
The hole that Ronald Jones left after his self-dismissal is no doubt felt when you hear just how great the Flaming Lips have become since. Sounds strange, but I mean that in the best possible sense. The Jones legend travels long and high, so once he was out, plan B put them into “never have to say die!”- mode and the creative exploits bore a hell of a fruit. But nearing the end of 1996 the precipice hung high. The Lips delivered high-quality tunes in spades but it left me thinking about Ronald. In other words, as amazing as these records are they still left me to ponder the big question, WWJHD?(what would Jones have done?) We'll never know, but the lack of a great guitarist like Jones in a band built on innovative guitar music is bound to cause that band to attempt to make the best of it, right? The Lips have released a succession of incredible records since 1997 and "The Terror" is no exception, except for maybe being the best of the lot. "Zaireeka" gave birth to "Soft Bulletin" and they continued to evolve with "Yoshimi", which caused them to not scale back, but to create a new hybrid sound by blending their more multi-dimensional sound with arrangements more akin to their mid-90's run on "At War", which pushed them even further into "old school" arrangement territory, with a firm grip on the "in the red" space rock they had been perfecting over the years, on "Embryonic".
Each album has had as much Beatles melody as Yes moogie boogie and when Wayne could hold a note, you can faintly hear Jon Andserson. For every moment featuring loud bursts of drums and guitar, there were three times as many visceral sounds racing in and around. It should come as no surprise that "The Terror" has given the Lips a platinum portal with which to feed their hyper-dimensional soundscapes through, using a minimal amount of guitar(Sure I'd love to hear a Jonesy lead melody screeching and twirling among the layers of music, but the album is really quite amazing as is.) In fact, Steven Drozd uses guitar here as rhythmic instrument, banging out atonal sounds. He strums quick bursts of fuzzy ping and twang, not unlike Steve Howe, but seemingly randomly yet keeping time, as evidenced in "Butterfly(How Long It Takes To Die)", a song that encapsulates everything I've read about the making of this album. In spite of the fact that they mentioned the album is best listened to as a whole, "Butterfly" makes a great stand-alone song that's as ground-breaking as anything they've done that's considered likewise. The rest of the album follows suit and then some. The Flaming Lips have always been good for a sad song or two over the years, "You Have To Be Joking", "It's Summertime", "Evil" and so forth. However, this whole album revels in utter despair. Even though “The Terror” is essentially about fear, it does offer comfort in strength, namely on “Always There In Our Hearts”. The songs sort of subconsciously pulse waves carrying the steps of grief. I've read plenty about Drozd being in the throws of drug addiction, off in a seperate studio while coming up with most of the music for "The Terror." The music has despair to spare. It makes you feel like you're lost in space, floating in darkness. It actually becomes frightening, thus the title. Upon first listen, it seems quite minimal and repetitive. However, upon a few more listens, things begin to blossom. As cold and lonely as the album gets, it never ceases to provide a glowing warmth. All instruments are on fire here and are used as needed and no melodic stone is left unturned. By now, I’ve listened to it countless times and the music flourishes with each play.
As always, Michael Ivins holds everything together with enough deep ryhythm and warble. Ivins has always been the behind-the-scenes guy, but he’s been in it since the beginning and his presence is much appreciated.
As long as I've loved prog rock, I've stuck mostly with the opinion that classic prog died in 1974. Thanks in large part to artists such as Robert Pollard, Todd Tobias and the Flaming Lips, Prog has been perfected as a means to add a thick layer of something useful and inherently textured to flesh out songs.
Their status as "the Beatles on cough syrup" can now be officially updated to "Yes on cough syrup". "Try to Explain" is a how-low-can-you-go downer of bitter-sweet beauty that rivals the "Soon" portion of Yes's "Gates of Delirium".
The restraint on songs like "Turning Violent" is a sound to behold, as it unfolds its secrets with each listen. Falsetto singing has isn’t usually my cup of tea, but Wayne does his best singing that way. The vocals are particularly melancholic and tuneful on the title track.
So that Wayne Coyne doses, and then proceeds to create the Lips' richest and most complex album shouldn't come as a surprise. So anyway, get it. I highly recommend it.

Mar 19, 2013 - 3:09pm
lipster
(observer)

Words. That's not Wayne singing falsetto on "Turning Voilent".

Mar 19, 2013 - 6:22pm
lipster
(observer)

I don't remember Wayne ever singing falsetto. Oh, well. Who cares.

Mar 19, 2013 - 6:25pm
skeetr
(observer)

I just ordered it from this website and can't wait to hear it. I want my first listen to be on vinyl. I appreciate this review and it made me want to hear it even more.

Thanks for the ticket, Wayne! Mar 19, 2013 - 7:17pm
Charlie Hearse
(observer)

I've been listening to them for 22-odd years and still I can't tell who sings on what sometimes since Drozd does a lot of singing. While it might not technically be considered falsetto, Wayne sings with a bit of a higher pitch than usual.

Mar 20, 2013 - 2:07am
Charlie Hearse
(observer)

just a side note to mention I wrote my review on a bit of a whim, so the typos are duly noted...

Mar 20, 2013 - 11:37am
Sinthetix
(observer)

Just listened to the new album, F-IN AWESOME

Mar 28, 2013 - 9:40am
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