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Album: Flaming Lips, The Terror (Bella Union)


If the mainstream view of Flaming Lips is a hybrid of ELO, Neil Young and the Ronettes, fronted by a benign Gandalf figure who turns every show into a giant children's party for grown-ups, then The Terror will do more than any of their albums in recent years to destroy it.

The Terror will not get the Lips a repeat booking on Beverly Hills 90210. The Terror will never be heard on Heart FM. The Terror will not provide the first dance at anyone's wedding. Much of it is, frankly, completely terrifying.

The lushness familiar from The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is utterly absent, and the sound is an often alarming dark psychedelia which harks back to the freako acid rock of the Lips' pre‑breakthrough days.

Nevertheless, beautiful, blissful melodies are buried in there – as if the Lips are creating some sort of giant musical metaphor. The accompanying essay ends with the strangely optimistic words: "The Terror is, we know now, that even without love, life goes on... we just go on... there is no mercy killing."

There's something strangely heartening and optimistic hidden within those words and, too, in the heart of The Terror itself.