Psychedelic rock’n’roll band The Flaming Lips released “The Terror,” their thirteenth studio album on April 16. The album represents a departure for the band, both in sound and disposition. Before “The Terror,” The Flaming Lips, led by the ever-positive singer Wayne Coyne, would bring their positive energy to both albums and exciting live shows, but on this album, the band explores the darker side of life.
“Why would we make this music that is the “The Terror,” this bleak and disturbing music?” Coyne said in a press release. “I don’t really want to know the answer that I think is coming. That we were hopeless, we were disturbed and, I think, accepting that some things are hopeless…or letting hope in one area die so that hope can start to live in another?
“Maybe this is the beginning of the answer,” he said.
Coyne’s disposition is reflected in the sound of the new album. “The Terror” is a grand soundscape providing a darker mood to the listener. The sound is achieved mainly by Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd.
With a change of mood comes a change of sound, but sadly, it may not be very entertaining to some. Imagine a drug-induced, depressed version of the late night NPR program Echoes with John Diliberto, and you have an idea.
The band’s depression is followed by a depressing sound. If you listen to it and wonder if every song is like the one before it, that’s because it is. There is not one thing on the album that stands out. The album has soundscapes, not songs. It is drenched with so much synthesizer noise and other effects that tracks blend together.
Coyne’s lyrics speak of lies and lust, or at least that’s what the liner notes said. Frankly, most of the vocals are saturated in reverb and other effects that is very difficult to make out what he is singing.
The band attempted to create an album that is atmospheric. They succeeded, but who wants to live in an atmosphere that is poisonous?
For all of the follies this album has, you can’t ignore the things it got right, even though there are not many of them. Coyne and the Lips set out to make an accurate reflection of what they were feeling at the time.
With all the things going in their lives (Coyne’s separation from his partner of 25 years and Drozd’s struggle with a past heroin addiction) they achieved that. That is the sign of a true artist, someone willing to attempt what they believe is right even when they know it may not be popular. It is the same situation as when movie-goers complain about the villain: you are not supposed to like him.
“The Terror” has the possibility of going down in history as “that one album” for the Flaming Lips, like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music” or Neil Young’s “Trans.” For years, Lips fans will talk about it and take sides.
Long gone are the punks who did acid and eventually became the psychedelic space evangenlicals, but the new sound makes us wonder two things: where are the Flaming Lips going, and do we want to go there too?