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coverpic flag US - Oklahoma - Full Moon 205 - 05/25/13

The Flaming Lips
The Terror
Warner Bros/Bella Union

This album ought to have been up for review last full moon, but never too late for a goodie, or what? The review was finished while Mother Nature's terror tornados (well, human global warming might have something to do with it) are sweeping over Oklahoma. But it's not that kind of terror Flaming Lips are dealing with.

I am not that familiar with the band's back catalogue. Albumwise I have thought of Flaming Lips as an American alternative to XTC, only they got started about 10 years later. In the beginning both bands were into a kind of punk or punk releated songs where the melodies often were overshadowed by the energy. Later they created their own kind of personal pop music with something extra and some great classic songs. (Live is a completely different matter; the bands can hardly be compared...) Though I haven't heard any of Flaming Lips' offerings in-depth since Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots way back in 2002. Anyways, the new album took me by surprise. My expectations about The Terror were not the greatest after Tim Clarke's review of The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends last year. I neither expected the kind of soft dreamy and occasional eerie space songs, nor the kind of personal bitter lyrics. Only a few tracks have conventional drums or basses, instead there are lots of keyboards, distorted guitars and somewhat distant voices around. Not quite space whispers, but in that direction. Apart from "Look The Sun Is Rising", "Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die" and "Always There In Our Hearts", the songs are slow and most of them lack the pulsating rhythms of space rock. To me the album sounds closer to good old fashioned krautrock! With an Oklahoman twist, of course.

I expected the lyrics to deal with science fiction and non-fiction, The Terror coming from outer space or at least some human technological cock-ups. The accompanying mini-CD includes the song "The Sun Blows Up Today" that gives indication in the former direction. But Wayne Coyne and company are mainly aiming in a very different direction, the terror within or between single human beings in personal relationships. I read somewhere that the lyrics have to do with Wayne's broken relationship after 25 years, maybe as a kind of therapy (my guess). Anyway they are quite terrible, gloomy and close to misanthropic:

Always there in our hearts
Fear of violence and death
Always there in our hearts
There is love and there is pain
Always there in our hearts
There is evil that wants out
Always there in our hearts
There are sorrows and sadness
Always there in our hearts
Never understanding
Always there in our hearts
Something pure that we can't control

But eventually there seem to be a sign of hope after all:

Always there in our hearts
A joy of life that overwhelms, overwhelms

The inclusion of a very slow version of Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" on the bonus mini-CD signals the same, though it after all seems quite out of place. As if asserting too hard that the listeners ought to calm down and don't worry about the state of Wayne's mind after all. Or maybe it's only black humour?

Anyway, after a while, I find the combination of those slow and floating melodies and harsh lyrics very intriguing. The almost lazy summer day feeling of the long and still somewhat scary "You Lust" for instance, and the first half of the title track until an eerie guitar takes over. And there are those disturbing noises of "Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die" that gives me the shivers every time. And the hypnotic drums of "Look, The Sun Is Rising", reminding of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart", before a sharp guitar tears the song apart and the pulse continues into "Be Free, A Way".

Normally I suspect loads of reverb, echo and distortion are used to hide weak ideas. The Terror seems to be an exception. The album and the spine-chilling grow with each spin.

Copyright © 2013 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Flaming Lips articles/reviews: Stubb's, Austin, TX, August 1st, 1998, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.

© 2013 Luna Kafé