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Album Review
The Terror

The Terror
by The Flaming Lips

Warner Music

Review Date
13th May 2013
Reviewed by
Nich Cunningham

Concept albums and any kind of rock music invoking the word 'opera' are like Terrence Malick films: you know a good ones exist but even the slightest miscalculation and you will find yourself mired in a turgid swamp of self-indulgent dribble. I don't care if Tommy was innovative, it is boring as hell and not all ground needs breaking. Expansive works and grand statements benefit from wisdom and wisdom cannot be accumulated rapidly. The Flaming Lips , however, have a thirty year career to draw from and while their sixteenth release The Terror is neither their first concept album nor their first invocation of Space Opera, it continues to demonstrates that they veer more towards The Thin Red Line and not The Tree of Life.

The concept this album addresses is a reflection on one of the conditions of life: that if we give and receive love then we will be happy. The eponymous terror is the fact that in an absence of this condition, life will continue regardless. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that this album maintains a fairly bleak atmosphere albeit punctuated by moments of almost sanguine beauty.

Musically speaking, The Terror could be described as a cross between Stereolab and Gang of Four: heavy use of sparse rhythmic synths combined with angular stabs of guitar. The music flows seamlessly from track to track, segueing effortlessly from more driven numbers into spacious, atmospheric reflections punctuated by Coyne's vocals, which often provide an emotional counterpoint to their musical surrounds. It is an extremely crafted, well-thought out and carefully produced piece of work. The detailed layering and sound manipulation of the opener of 'Look...The Sun Rises' is a great example of this.

But The Terror is not simply intellectually stimulating album - it is also emotionally engaging. 'Try To Explain' conveys the sense of bitter loss and regret that accompanies a failed relationship; and perhaps in a allusion to a deeper meaning, the melody at times recalls Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain'.

This album is an expansive work and demonstrates the basis of the Flaming Lips longevity: their ability to produce coherent, comprehensive , intellectually stimulating and moving music that is never cloying and self-consciously clever. This is not party music, unless you are taking heroin, nor is a aimed towards garnering commercial airplay. It is, instead the Flaming Lips' unique trademark acidic and psychedelic electronic space opera and it's great.


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