April 13, 2006

An Old Flame Still Burns

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It’s been about four years since The Flaming Lips released their last album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and I would expect they’ve had ample time to put together something of worth for their latest push forward. However, for a while it seemed like the only news I could gather of their latest release fell far short of praise.

So, with my influenced mind I approached the album and, surprisingly, found little to complain about. Though not without some imperfections, At War With The Mystics is full of very solid tracks and a progressive sound that I have yet to hear from the Flaming Lips.

Upon first listen, I immediately found myself drawn into the upbeat, full accent that characterizes the first couple tracks on the album. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs song is the opening piece, and is definitely an attention getter. This fast paced rock sound is miles away from the trippiness that constitutes a good amount of the Flaming Lips’ work. I found myself loving the song so much that it deserved at least twenty minutes on repeat.

On the other hand, I did find the lyrics to be a bit trite: “It’s a very dangerous thing to do exactly what you want to.” No shit! Not exactly the most brilliant insight. Still, the song is unbelievably catchy and I consider it to be the best on the album. (Luckily, a second version of the song managed to latch onto the end of the CD.)

The second track, “Free Radicals,” is also a curious treat. I can see how one might be thrown off by the vocals, but I thought it was very impressive that lead singer Wayne Coyne could put forth a sound so much like that of Prince. The electronic rock beat is by no means groundbreaking for the group, but at the same time it is as if The Flaming Lips are having fun putting a subtle spin on their own style.

The next few songs are a bit slower, and represent a lower point of the album. “The Sound of Failure” and “Vein of Stars” are amusing, but are certainly nothing to write home about. “It Overtakes Me” and “The W.A.N.D.” sport driving bass and guitar riffs, elements that one does not often find playing leading roles in Flaming Lips tracks.

“Pompeii AM Gotterdammerung,” another of my favorite tracks, is a bit mellower but still fast paced and illustrates some innovative special effects work.

Basically, the album proceeds in a wave pattern; a little upbeat, a little mellow, and back again. I think a lack of album focus on the more novel sound of the opening tracks is the only major complaint I have. But this is nothing new coming from a band that has dabbled in an incredible array of musical genres.

I suppose I’ve made it clear that the inclusion of an upbeat ingredient to the Flaming Lips’ latest work has got me stuck on At War With The Mystics. The sound permeating through this album is not easily found elsewhere and therefore, don’t let talk of the less-than-stellar cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” bonus track fool you; this release is definitely one to be checked out.

Archived article by Blake Horn