The years since the 2002 release of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots have been hit or miss for me, as a die-hard fan of The Flaming Lips. I loved portions of At War With the Mystics and Embryonic and even picked up each special single or bizarre collaboration (culminating in the release of the Heady Fwends compilation album in 2012). Don’t get me wrong – I have been blown away by some of the songs over the last 10 years – just not for an entire albums length. Was the Golden Age of The Flaming Lips for me really going to always be the years 1997 through 2002? The more I read about the 2013 album, The Terror, the more I began to look forward to its release. Interviews indicating a dark atmosphere permeating the entire album, questions of mortality – these are all things that I have always loved. Now that I’ve lived with the album for a few weeks, I am happy to report that this is a modern classic. Perhaps one of the strongest offerings in the entire discography by The Flaming Lips.
The album is basically the sound of someone confronting their mortality head on. The vocals by Wayne Coyne are muted in comparison to the happy-go-lucky character he has personified over the last 15 years. In its stead is a contemplative performance, dread and fear conveyed with each nuance. On a few tracks you might be reminded of their 1999 masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. These tracks are set apart from that album by an atmosphere that is overbearing in its feeling of dread about life and the future. “Try to Explain” in particular recalls the orchestration of the earlier albums married to a disorienting Krautrock beat. “Be Free, A Way” pulls off the same trick, with an emotional vocal performance by Wayne (his vocals are for the most part muted on this record). Consider these lyrics from across the entire album:
“You can hear the voice / Telling you to love / It’s the voice of MK-Ultra / And you’re doing what it wants” (Look…The Sun Is Rising)
“The sun shines now but we’re so alone / It’s not, ’tis not, the light that shines / The way, a way, my heart can beat / Be free and go, our days are empty” (Be Free, A Way)
“You got a lot of nerves / A lot of nerves to fuck with me” (You Lust)
“However long they love you, we are all standing alone / The terror’s in our heads, they don’t control the controls” (The Terror)
“Always there, in our hearts, fear of violence and of death” (Always There In Our Hearts)
This is a disorienting, challenging masterpiece from The Flaming Lips. It is a wholly unique undertaking, recalling earlier ‘Lips masterpieces while also bringing a heavy 70’s Krautrock influence to the forefront. This isn’t for the faint of heart – if the music doesn’t overwhelm, a closer inspection of the lyrics just might do the trick. The message Wayne, Steven, Michael, and company seem to be conveying is that we will all one day move on from this existence. Enjoy our moments, hold on to them. In the back of our minds is The Terror. The realization that even in our most intimate moments with others, we are alone. Alone with our thoughts. Alone with our beliefs. In our last breath of life, alone. The Terror.
Verdict: Alone, Together
For Fans of: Mercury Rev, Slowdive, Can, Neu!, The Cure
Look…The Sun Is Rising
Be Free, A Way
Try To Explain
You Are Alone
Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die
Always There In Our Hearts