The Terror

The Flaming Lips

Warner Brothers, 2013

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


The Terror is the most unique Flaming Lips album to date. If you’re at all familiar with their music, you’ll know that that’s a rather bold statement to make, since The Flaming Lips are a band that’s seemingly made a career on making one bizarre musical project after another. They wave their freak-flag high and proud with everything they do (so high in fact, that it occasionally turns people off). From 24-hour songs encased in skulls to four disc sets of music intended to be played simultaneously, Wayne Coyne and company have always followed their bliss wherever it’s taken them. But the one thing that has always been consistent with the band throughout their endless experiments and changes is their relentless optimism, even in the face of death and suffering. The idea that no matter how dark things become, there is always love just around the corner to brighten up the world has been at the very heart of what made The Flaming Lips who they were for nearly their entire existence.

But not anymore. What makes this album so unique is that, for the first time ever, The Flaming Lips has eliminated nearly every shred of optimism. The Terror is an album about the inevitability of pain, sadness, and death, and there’s no “Do You Realize??” or “Race For The Prize” in sight to lift you out of the murky wallows. The closest this album gets to uplifting is with bittersweet album standout “Try To Explain.” But even there the pretty tune surrounds itself with a backing track of pulsating industrial warbles, making it feel like a tiny point of light surrounded by oppressive darkness.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The majority of this record consists of very repetitive songs, generally groove or atmosphere based. The band’s biggest reference point here is almost certainly masters of krautrock Can. Their love for hypnotic beats and thick psychedelic soundscapes has always been shared by The Flaming Lips, but it’s more prevalent than ever this time around. This repetition does get to be a bit much at times, however. With few exceptions, if you’ve heard 30 seconds of one of these songs, you’ve heard pretty much the gist of the whole thing. Furthermore, once you’ve heard the first 10 minutes of the album, you pretty much know what the rest of the album will sound like. Once you’ve acclimatized yourself to the atmosphere and emotional palate of The Terror, there are little to no surprises along the way. Nearly every track can be described as “hypnotic song with droning synths and pitchy falsetto vocals.” There's little variation in instrumentation, mood, or lyrical content at any point. Drums are present maybe only half of the time, with large stretches of the record being content to float along untethered to a conventional rhythm track.

The mood that is created here is extremely thick and absorbing, and that's ultimately the album’s biggest triumph. But this atmosphere generally comes at the expense of quality songwriting, which is a bit of a downer and is the main thing that holds the album back for me. Catchy tunes aren’t at all what this record is about, so it’s hard for me to fault the band too much for that. It simply wasn't what The Flaming Lips were aiming for. Past Lips albums displayed great songwriting on such a frequent basis that it's a little underwhelming hearing the band go for something different. You may not find yourself humming many of these tunes after you’re done listening, but the emotions The Flaming Lips have conjured up here go much deeper than that. It’s all about sucking the listener into a completely absorbing, eerie, and hypnotic mood for the full duration of the LP. And at that it succeeds. It’s not necessarily the kind of music I personally like to hear most from the Flaming Lips, but The Terror is still generally a success.

Rating: B

User Rating: C-



© 2013 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.