THE FLAMING LIPS The Terror
10 years after the golden summer which brought them briefly to popularity with "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots", Wayne Coyne and his warriors of weird do what they have always done : whatever felt right. Not for them the easy path of diminishing returns by doing the same stuff as they always used to do, which, whilst it would have easily brought them a kind of gentle stasis in artistic death, the F'Lips eschew the easy in favour of the terror.
At the heart of it, they always did something slightly odd, and with long, instrumental experiements such as "Pompeii" in their canon, now they go one further : whereas their past album-a-year journey over the past several years has yield the good, the bizarre, and the ugly, with live albums, movie soundtracks, and the odd and brilliantly strange track-by-track remake of "Dark Side of The Moon", this, "The Terror" takes the world of strange they made around "The Embryonic" and go further. Much further. These aren't so much songs as .. punishments. Coyne and Drozd, with the rest of the band, conjour up some dense whirlwinds of sound and miserabilism built on a fierce mortality. Martin Amis has long seen the role of the driven artist as being founded in 'Premature Death Awareness Syndrome', a knowledge from a young age that we are all mortal : this drips this record with an uncompromising edge. We all die. When that happens, all that is left is the work. Nothing here now but the recordings, as William Burroughs had it. "The Terror" is not an easy record to love, or even like.
It is immaculately produced, but the songs are not always obvious. From the opening, groovedrenched "Look! The Sun Rises Today", where Coyne intones fragments of sentences over a pounding beat, it's obvious this band aren't just beyond the dark side of the moon, they're in another universe, and you can come along if you want. But it's not exactly the kind of strumalong you can sing a park. "Love is always something you should fear" he sings. Being at the age where parents start to die, and every year brings names crossed out of the address book as having escaped the mortal coil, the band are perhaps speeding up, as time speeds up as you get older, the years get quicker, the world gets stranger. Its as if the whole record was made of the kind of weird and odd songs that populated the back end of some of the early stuff. It's not that it isn't good : it certainly is, but it is dense, hard work, brave, rewarding, difficult and designed to soundtrack a hard hours thinking, eye closed, lost in a world, as free agents. Is it any good? Yes, but obvious, straightforward, designed for the stadia of the world? Not a chance.