Comedown On Mars…from The Band That Refused To Die
The Flaming Lips were born back in 1983 in the back yard or frontman Wayne Coyne’s house in Oklahoma City. Through multiple line-up changes, they spent the rest of the decade becoming the US’s darlings of psychedelic indie-rock, setting venues on fire, intensifying over one frazzled acid-fried album after another; taking in a guest spot on Beverly Hills 90210; orchestrating car-park noise experiments; and finally triumphing with the tour-de-force ‘The Soft Bulletin’ album in 1999.
After that artistic watershed, The Lips have got bigger and bigger, Warner Bros seemingly happy to entertain Coyne and co’s every demented whim, be it USB files encased in blood and lodged in gummy brains, giant onstage lazer hands and space bubbles, or the heavy recording of a 24 hour song. The albums ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ (2003) and ‘At War With The Mystics’ tickled the mainstream enough to allow the band into the cave-like noise-jazz experimentation of 2009’s ‘Embryonic’.
I remember listening to ‘What Is The Light?’, centrifugal, spatial masterpiece from ‘The Soft Bulletin’ in the early years of this century while walking through Richmond Park on the Greater London-Surrey border, early morning in the mist and dew. As the strings of the chorus swept in, elevating the soul, I looked up from my conteplation to encounter an enormous stag, taller than me and alot longer, staring me down in the middle of the path. I stopped dead, froze, then slowly turned around and returned home, constantly checking the still static and glaring beast over my left shoulder, a feeling in my heart called pure animal terror.
The Terror described in sound on The Flaming Lips’ 2013 album is a psycho-emotional one, seemingly spurred on by Wayne Coyne’s positivistically existential voice and lyrics – the ever present postmodern Neil Young keening – doing battle with multi-instrumental genius Steve Drozd’s heroin addiction (graphically illustrated in documentary ‘Fearless Freaks’). While ‘Look…The Sun Is Rising’ is compellingly industrial, sounding like Mercury Rev in a garage on a mountainside with Einzurstende Neubaten, and ‘Be Free, A Way’ is beautiful in the same way as ‘Evil’ from ‘Embryonic’, the overall feeling is a huge sound operating on it’s own terms.
‘The Terror’ is clearly the four-year delayed comedown on from the sprawling, epic oddysey of ‘Embryonic’, feeling-based rather than song, coming on like Eno with added emotional depth. Henri Matisse’s quote that he wanted his art to be like a comfortable armchair, enveloping the receiver, feels relevant – The Terror asks few questions, operating in it’s own space, bleeping here, reverbing out there, generally swirling like a whirlpool in the south Pacific, and eventually rubbing it’s eyes and making the coffee.