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Different... but worth it
on 1 April 2013
'The Terror' looks set to be something of a polarising album for The Flaming Lips. Fans gathered up in the wake of 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots' and 'At War With The Mystics' who have been frustrated or confused by the band's recent freefall to their more experimental and roaming roots will likely find little to love here. Indeed on first listen 'The Terror' is a little bewildering; all chilly krautrock and barely audible lyrics that sound more like mantras than narrative verse. 'The Terror' is a leap further into the distance than either 'Embryonic' or 'Heady Fwends' were.
Here it sounds as though Yoshimi lost the battle with the pink robots. Wilco sang that Hell is chrome. The Flaming Lips seem to be evoking that image on 'The Terror'. It's a disquieting, utterly beautiful place to visit.
This is quite pointedly the bleakest Flaming Lips album in memory. Something seems to be deeply wrong in Wayne Coyne's rainbow universe for this to be the by-product. They've made songs about death and evil many many times before, but usually balanced against chirpy upbeat melodies. There is no such relief here. All is uncertainty and fear.
However... it's sublime. Give it time and your attention and 'The Terror' reveals itself. No, it's not a singles album, but it is a remarkably cohesive set more focused on texture and mood. This is a set to be listened to in its entirety, not dipped in and out of. Like the best albums it works as a whole (tellingly, the deluxe download edition even includes a version without track stops). Recently the band were involved in a cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. That album is recalled here. 'The Terror' is a song cycle and in that sense harks back lovingly to the concept albums of the 70s.
On these terms it is a revelation and one of their best works, one which demands your full attention. Sure it sounds light years away from the crowd-pleasing pop songs of 'The Soft Bulletin' or 'Clouds Taste Metallic', but get to know it and 'The Terror' offers as much reward as their more beloved pop records. As blissful as it is disturbing.