One of the Flaming Lips' greatest strengths is how vividly they express emotions. For most of their career, they've focused on capturing wide-eyed wonder, unbridled glee, and the occasional poignant moment, but The Terror proves they're just as good at channeling despair. Embryonic hinted at this darker shift, but here it comes to a head: sparked by Wayne Coyne's separation from his longtime partner and Steven Drozd's struggles with substance abuse, The Terror is more fragmented and anguished than its predecessor. Where Embryonic's bold swaths of noise and pulsing synths broke free of expectations, on The Terror they represent being cut loose and drifting off into loneliness and doubt.
Having long been known for their artsy music and predilections for bizarre arrangements and science fiction inspired lyrics, the Flaming Lips remain one of those rare bands that inspire fervent fanaticism in their fans while defying categorization. Once labeled as alternative, they're now simply considered rock, but the term does them little justice, as it might for Radiohead and other bands interested in paving their own paths in a tired and regurgitated industry. Unorthodox arrangements, lyrics, and singer Wayne Coyne's inimitable voice set the Lips apart from every other band currently producing records.
You can't argue with a great concept: Songs sung by Frank Sinatra are interpreted by a slew of indie rock and punk bands. A great concept, but one that makes for truly (and gloriously) unpredictable results. Chairman of the Board is, of course, not a perfect record, but it offers up some true gems.