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The Flaming Lips : The Terror

The Flaming Lips - The Terror

With their ecstatic, communal live shows, theatrical gimmicks and “anything goes” attitude, Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips have been synonymous with shiny, happy indie pop for so long now that there’s probably a large section of their fan-base that doesn’t even realise they used to be… well, not so shiny and happy. Fourteenth studio album The Terror finds the group revisiting the vibe – if not the sound – of the pre-Soft Bulletin years, immersing themselves once more in a darker, heavier kind of psychedelia that’s less “peace and love” and more “bad karma and paranoia”. Recorded at the same time as last year’s album of collaborations … And Heady Fwends, during a tumultuous period that saw multi-instrumentalist Steven Drodz – a recovering drug addict – temporarily relapse and the breakdown of frontman Wayne Coyne’s marriage, The Terror feels like a product of the depressing hours after the party, with those fwends gone and the band left alone with their demons. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s pretty bleak stuff: largely drumless, and stuck resolutely in the minor key, these dirge-like soundscapes are pushed along on waves of fuzzy synth, spiky post-punk guitar riffs and electronic noise by malevolent bass pulses and Coyne’s high, cracked croon which – in amongst such surroundings, sounds considerably more pained than usual. More rhythmic moments, like opener “Look… The Sun Is Rising” (below), fleetingly recall the clanging Krautrock of 2009’s double LP Embryonic and the motorik madness of their six hour-long song “Found A Star On The Ground“, but on the whole – as one might expect from an album Coyne himself describes as “disturbing” – The Terror is harder work than anything the band have produced in over two decades, and whilst a change is as good as a rest you can’t help longing for a “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” or a “Do You Realize?” to lighten the mood. As an insight into the Lips’ current fragile headspace it’s morbidly fascinating, but – like the past – it’s not somewhere you’ll want to stay too long.

The Terror is out now in the UK/ April 16 US via Bella Union/ Warner Bros, and is streaming now over at NPR

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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