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Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics

Released on Warner Bros/Wea, 4/4/06

How does a quirky, eccentric band of miscreants from Oklahoma (aka The Flaming Lips) follow up a wacky concept album about a young girl battling huge, pink robots with her exceptional kung fu skills? (See Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots) For the Flaming Lips, the answer is all too obvious; it's time to go to war with mystics! Wayne Coyne and his crew do just that in the aptly titled, At War With The Mystics.

What's wonderful about the Flaming Lips is their lack of pretense and self importance. How can one not love a band that performs on stage in bunny and panda suits? Coyne and company never take themselves seriously and recognize that their job is solely to entertain. This jocularity has been present in virtually all of the Flaming Lips previous work and is on full display in At War With The Mystics. But, the Lips also embed a few messages in their most recent work as well.

The Lips send a message right out of the gate with the catchy "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song". While it's evident the Lips lean more than a bit to the left, this song doesn't simply castigate the right wingers in power, but poses a more challenging question to listeners about what they would do if they had the power to liberate/destroy nations at the push of a button. It's easy to criticize, but is it necessarily the case that any of us would make better decisions?

Similarly, "The Sound of Failure" questions the "it's all good!" mentality that is sickeningly omnipresent in much of the pop music (not to mention in society in general) that is spewed on the radio airwaves today. Granted, The Lips aren't necessarily saying dwelling on the negative and depressing is the answer, but not examining the pain and discomfort associated with loss is not necessarily healthier.

While At War With The Mystics retains some of the otherworldly, existential, space rock sound of previous albums by the Lips, many of the tracks have a markedly different sound to them. Songs such as "Free Radicals" and "It Overtakes Me" are more rock and funk influenced than the more ethereal "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion". The latter was inspired by the opening intro for the Lips live shows in which Wayne Coyne would often roll into the audience in an enormous space bubble.

For those who loved Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (present company included), At War With The Mystics may seem like a departure. Most assuredly it is, but this album manages to keep much of the goofy psychedelia of the previous album and infuse it with challenging lyrical questions and a sound that is more rock and funk influenced. The Lip Nation will not be disappointed with At War With The Mystics.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars