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Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics

  by Mark Rowland

published: 17 / 3 / 2006



Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
Label: Select Label
Format: CD

intro

Life-affirming eleventh album from the bestselling Flaming Lips, which takes its inspiration from 70's hard rock and psychedelic funk


The Flaming Lips are one of those bands that split music fans. A lot of people can’t stand them, mainly because of one song; ‘Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1’. Because of ‘Yoshimi…’, the ‘Lips are often dismissed as fluffy animal-obsessed hippies, but there is a lot more to them than that, as their 11th full-length album, ‘At War With the Mystics’, attempts to disprove. A rockier record than 'Yoshimi...' and its predecessor 'The Soft Bulletin\, ‘…Mystics’ takes its cues from 70's hard rock and psychedelic funk, while still keeping the elements that made the last two records so great. It also recalls the fuzzed up sounds of earlier records, albeit more focused and mature. One of the things I’ve always liked about the Flaming Lips is their attitude to life and the nature. "There’s so much shit in the world", they seem to tell us. "But there’s also so much in the world that’s great." That message was partially lost in the relentless cheeriness of ‘Yoshimi…’ with the exception of ‘Do You Realize??’ Thankfully, ‘…Mystics’ pretty much addresses this theme throughout. Frontman Wayne Coyne has cited the balance of beauty and ugliness in nature as one of the main inspirations for the album and a good few songs are about death and the afterlife. Opener and first single in the UK, ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Song’ is a relentlessly cheery pop opus which takes a few pot shots at the Bush government (“If you could blow up the world with a flick of a switch, would you do it?”) while also asking "what would you do with all that power?" ‘Free Radicals’ is a deconstructed Free song, with stop-start guitar and drums, which feeds into three reflective songs about death and the stars. ‘The Sound of Failure/It’s Dark…Is it Always This Dark??’ tells the story of a girl's death, swathed in macabre atmospherics and plucked acoustic guitars, which eventually fades into a looped, lost voice in a black hole of sound. ‘My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion’ is much more optimistic, and would not be out of place on ‘The Soft Bulletin’. The song is still about death, but this time within nature. ‘Vein of Stars’ is a reflective song about the existence of heaven and hell, based around a gently strummed acoustic and some wonderfully understated piano work. Prog instrumental ‘The Wizard Turns On…The Giant Silver Flashlight and Puts on His Werewolf Moccasins’ is the weakest track on the album, but makes up for it with the best title. The upbeat ‘It Overtakes Me/The Stars Are So Big… I am So Small… Do I Stand A Chance?’ was allegedly written with Gwen Stefani in mind, with the original title ‘I Like to Masturbate While I Dream of Outerspace’. Driven by a jaunty bassline, it turns into a completely different song, beautifully reflective and atmospheric, which fades out into a lone plucked acoustic. ‘Mr Ambulance Driver’ is another song about death, an understated funky track which tells the story of someone waiting desperately for an ambulance while a girl they love slowly dies of her injuries after a car accident. ‘Haven’t got a Clue’ ups the tempo again, with an uncharacteristically vitriolic lyric aimed at an unnamed, rich person that constantly moans about their life. US single ‘The W.A.N.D (the Will Always Negates Defeat)’ is the rockiest song on the album, apparently inspired in part by Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’. ‘Popeii am Gotterdammerung’ has a Kraftwerk/prog feel to it, with elements of the pastoral electronica peddled by Royksopp. Compared to the general brilliance of the rest of the album, it sounds a bit weak and half-formed. With ‘Goin’ On’, however, the band finishes on a real high; one of the best tracks on the record. Its syrupy melodies and sunny piano summons the spirit of the Beach Boys circa ‘Pet Sounds’, an absolutely brilliant end to another fantastic record from the ‘Lips.



Track Listing:-
1 The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
2 Free Radicals
3 The Sound of Failure
4 My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion
5 Vein of Stars
6 The Wizard Turns On...
7 It Overtakes Me
8 Mr. Ambulance Driver
9 Haven't Got a Clue
10 The W.A.N.D.
11 Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung
12 Goin' On
13 Bohemian Rhapsody
14 The Gold in the Mountain of Our Madness
15 The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (Extended Version)
16 Time Travel...YES!!



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