The Flaming Lips show a new side on 'The Terror'

a418flaminglipstheterrorcourtesyofflamminglipscomrgb

Even before The Flaming Lips reinvented themselves in the late 1990s to become the world’s most inspiring carnival, the band was always approachable.

Maybe it’s the general dearth of humor or Wayne Coyne’s friendly vocals that can bring warmth to even Lips’ most radical ideas, but there are several moments on The Terror that simply don’t sound like the band that birthed it.

AElectronically-influenced jam track “You Lust” peels back the fuzzy ’60s guitars that made 2009‘s Embryonic, the Lips’ last proper full-length, so successful. Instead, “You Lust” finds Coyne menacingly cooing, “You’ve gotta lot of nerve to fuck with me” over a desolate nine-minute soundscape that calls up the finer moments of David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy with Brian Eno.

Likewise, the spacey distance of the track “The Terror” combines an effervescent keyboard, clinking club rhythm and drowning vocal effects in such a way that vaguely recalls Radiohead’s The King of Limbs. Such experimentation is certainly not unwelcome, particularly when you’re dealing with a band as historically consistent as The Flaming Lips.

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

However, it can be a little startling to realize that “Look … The Sun Is Rising,” the album’s opening track, is probably as close as The Terror gets to sounding like the Lips of old, simply because of how bouncy the rhythm is.

One of the more frustrating things for Flaming Lips fans will be the band’s newfound lack of attention to melody. “Be Free, A Way” is a beautiful ambient track that finds Coyne singing a hypnotic melody akin to the warped AM radio-pop of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, but the melody never really pops or sticks as it did on previous records.

Similarly, The Terror’s closer “Always There … In Our Hearts” has an unsettling vocal hook that closes out the album on a suitably dark note, but Coyne and co. never deviate from the melody enough to warrant the lengths to which it is repeated over the course of four minutes.

However, the flip side to this lack of melody is the astounding progression of The Flaming Lips’ understanding of sound in songwriting. On previous releases like At War With the Mystics and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, the band was more than capable of delivering the hooks, but began to grow stagnant in its brand of overwhelmingly bright and busy arrangements.

Conversely, Terror tracks like “You Are Alone” and “Turning Violent” are much less immediate and more carefully constructed, with silence and droning synthesizers often providing powerful counterpoints to Coyne’s disaffected vocal stylings.

What closer “Always There … In Our Hearts” may lack in vocal hooks it more than makes up for in its chilling low-end percussion and violin-like guitar staccato. Although at times The Terror can’t quite live up to the Lips’ previous heights, it’s certainly a fascinating turn.


Share this article