The Flaming Lips “The Terror” (Bella Union/Warner Bros.)
With “The Terror,” the lights go out on The Flaming Lips' psychedelic midway, leaving ringmaster Wayne Coyne to stumble and grope his way through the darkness. And predictably, he does not like what he's feeling.
While the brown-acid fuzztones of 2009's “Embryonic” occupied a largely negative head space, “The Terror” is not hallucinatory in the least. It is bleak but frighteningly clear-eyed and confrontational, which makes for a more unsettling experience once Kliph Scurlock's martial drums and Steven Drozd's razor-funk guitar on the opening “Look ... the Sun Rising” give way to purgatorial drones and blips. It is an album powered by pulse and shaped by serotonin imbalance, populated by sad souls “walking away on a bridge to nowhere,” as Coyne sings on “Try to Explain.”
At the dark heart of “The Terror” is “You Lust,” in which Coyne dishes out and takes close-to-the-bone critiques about moral failings. “You Lust” goes on for nearly 10 minutes, with Coyne and guest vocalist Sarah Barthel, of Phantogram, backed by industrial blasts of static and Krautrock repetition as they exchange brutal truths. From there, “The Terror” never really gets easier, closing with “Always There, In Our Hearts,” a pretty title fronting a pretty defeated sentiment — Coyne finishes the album by repeating the word “overwhelmed” as the full force of the Flaming Lips' drone machine gives way to crowd noise.