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A Magazine for Sheffield

"Weird", "quirky" and "bizarre" are all words that have been used to describe The Flaming Lips. Yet after 30 years and 15 albums they are still pushing boundaries and delivering music that is strangely captivating. Their new record The Terror finds them embracing a much more stark and bleak musical vision - no bubblegum pop or psychedelic melodies delivered with gleeful optimism. They have instead chosen to use repetitive drones and melancholic vocals that create a dark and bewitching experience.

Unlike their last full length album Embryonic, which felt like a collection of unrelated jams, The Terror has a narrative that threads through the entire record. Its subject matter explores the unknown, and this message is fittingly expressed by the album cover, which depicts a figure resting on the ground staring deep into the sun. The Flaming Lip's genius has always lain in Wayne Coyne's ability to speak honestly about human emotions. Even when their music has taken on flights of fantasy, his down-to-earth words and off-kilter rasp have kept the music accessible.

In working with long-time collaborator and producer David Fridmann they have created a suite that fuses rumbling basslines, screeching feedback and squelching keyboard sounds. Although there are individual tracks, the album works better as an atmospheric and insular whole. Sounds pan and sweep from left to right, adding to the feeling of anxiety and tension.

Another noticeable difference from their past releases is that Coyne's vocals are buried more within the mix. His voice is used as a way to help soften the moments of harsh guitar feedback on songs like 'Turning Violent' and 'Always There...In Our Hearts'. Where The Flaming Lips have always shown an affinity for Beach Boys inspired melodies and psychedelic rock, The Terror's centre-piece 'You Lust' has similarities to the krautrock of Neu! and Kraftwerk. A 13-minute epic built on a repetitive bassline and unsettling vocal samples, it somehow manages to be strangely compelling and hypnotic.

The Flaming Lips have always created records that take the listener's imagination to the outer reaches of the stratosphere, but this one is concerned with the subconscious. Some might argue that their best work is behind them or that they have become self indulgent, but they can never be accused of being predictable.

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