No Need To Be Afraid of This Album

The Flaming Lips’ New Release Excites

the-terroflaminglipsThe Terror might go down as the most aptly named album of 2013. Though not scary in the sense of a slasher movie, the latest album from psych rock veterans The Flaming Lips is a cold, chilling, and nerve-wrecking experience that will send chills down your spine. And I mean that in the best way possible.

It’s a somewhat unexpected move from the band, but then again, unexpected moves have been this band’s calling card for 27 years. Throughout their career, The Flaming Lips have pretty much done everything there is a band can do, from releasing four-disc albums that need to be played simultaneously for the full experience, to reimagining Dark Side of the Moon, to releasing a 24 hour song on a flash drive encased in a human skull (yes, you read that correctly).

But going this dark? Unheard of! One thing that has been fairly consistent for the group is their bright, creative level of imagination and fun. Many of the groups most well known songs, like the soaring anthem “Do You Realize?” carry an uplifting, triumphant vibe, and are featured in commercials quite often. The group’s most recent single, “Sun Blows Up Today,” was used in a Super Bowl commercial this year.

And then there are the bands live shows, which have reached legendary status in the music world. Seeing them a few years ago was one of the most unforgettable, inventive, and fun shows I’ve ever been to. Lasers; confetti cannons; people in Wizard of Oz costumes; a guy in a giant bear suit – all of these things took place within the first few songs. It’s something that everyone should witness at some point even if you don’t like the band’s music.

But now I’m worried because I have no idea how the band’s latest batch of songs will fit amongst the confetti and bright colors of their treasured stage performances. I just couldn’t imagine the group’s iconic front man, Wayne Coyne, walking over the audience in a giant plastic bubble with the bleak soundscapes of The Terror playing in the background.

It’s a small price to pay, however, because while The Terror might not be as fun and is harder to listen to than previous efforts from the group, the album is nonetheless another groundbreaking and excellent effort to add to the group’s myriad of classics, showing the bands creative spark and imagination in a much, much darker shade than ever before.

Opening track “Look…The Sun is Rising” pulls the listener down to its murky depths instantly as the songs pulsing rhythm, harsh bursts of feedback, and clanging guitars will leave the listener gasping for breath. The song allows for a few cracks of light, namely in the form of a twitchy keyboard melody that repeats throughout the track, but even this is more melancholic than sunny.

The atmosphere of this track, along with the rest of the album, is dense, foggy, and rife with uncertainty, with Coyne’s distant, forlorn falsetto adding a much needed dose of humanity. The album itself, with its harsh, corroded production, sounds as if it was washed in a vat of acid and scrubbed with a sandpaper sponge.

However, these factors are in no way negatives for the album, as the grotesque nature of The Terror makes it all the more visceral and captivating. It’s hard not to get lost in some of the albums more expansive moments, like the cosmic, irradiated “Butterfly, How Long it Takes to Die,” or the sprawling, 13-minute “You Lust.”

Some songs are certainly more challenging than others, as finding anything resembling a hook in tracks like the throbbing “You Are Alone,” or the bleak “Turning Violet” takes a lot of patience.

In fact, if it weren’t for Coyne’s distinct vocal melodies, you would be hard pressed to even guess The Flaming Lips are even playing them, sounding more like an industrial waste plant on fire.

However, the group has certainly not abandoned basic musical elements like melody and song structure, they’ve merely buried them further in their psychedelic squalor.

The opening track, despite its harsh elements, sports well-grounded melodies and an urgent beat, adding some necessary structure to the wallowing chaos.

Though the atmosphere of The Terror is largely consistent, the album’s tracks find interesting ways to stand out from one another. The title track, for instance, is grounded on an almost hip-hop-like beat, adding a necessary amount of pep not heard in many of the other tracks. “Try To Explain,” though simmering in a static-like drone, is lifted to spiritual heights with a chorus that breaks through the clouds and reaches triumphantly for the heavens above.

The Terror is easily one of the most complex albums The Lips have put out since their early days. However, submerging yourself in the albums ghastly depths will certainly leave a strong, unforgettable impression, and makes for quite an awarding experience.

You may not want to put on The Terror during your next house party. Come your next rainy day, you might find you have more in common with this album than you thought.