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The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics

Flaming Lips, At War With The Mystics

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DON’T let the chirpy ‘yeah, yeah, yeahs’ and breezy acoustic guitar licks that open At War With The Mystics fool you – the 11th album from The Flaming Lips is as dark and intelligent as any of their previous work.

The opening line on the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power) is ‘if you could blow up the world with a flick of a switch, would you do it?’

Yet Wayne Coyne’s appeal has always been his ability to marry thought-provoking lyrics with some truly warm and catchy music – as 2002’s Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots proved so emphatically (who can forget the power, grace and jaw-dropping beauty of tracks like Fight Test and Do You Realize?).

At War With The Mystics is similarly brilliant but a little more angry. It reflects their growing frustration with the US government, as well as some of the darker recesses of their own musical legacy.

Hence, Yeah Yeah Yeah Song is probably the most radio-friendly on the album, with tracks like Free Radicals adopting a harder, rockier approach that’s in keeping with their newfound anger.

Free Radicals finds Coyne adopting falsetto vocals, while blurting out a chorus of ‘you think you’re radical, but you’re not so radical, in fact you’re fanatical’.

The Sound of Failure, meanwhile, drops some wonderfully psychedelic hooks and some astute observations, including references to Britney and Gwen while sounding like a call to arms about the necessity of positivity.

It is during such moments that the skills of the band’s multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd come to the fore.

The achingly beautiful My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion is designed as Coyne’s ‘response to the naysaying know-it-alls who see life only leading to death and nature as a cruel prankster designed to defeat the human spirit’.

It’s one of the most stripped down tracks on the album early on but gives way into a truly wonderful guitar solo that feels like a celebration of life.

The cosmic Vein of Stars contains a fuzzy psychedelia that’s reminiscent of Do You Realize which comes in nice contrast to the scuzzy guitars of It Overtakes Me with its Ziggy Stardust/Bowie-style sensibilities. You’ll be clapping your hands and tapping your feet quicker than the time it takes to learn the simple lyrics.

There’s an epic, cinematic sweep surrounding Mr Ambulance Driver, with its sampled sirens and whimsical lyrics – ‘Mr Ambulance Driver I’m right here beside her, and though I’ll live somehow I’ve found Mr Ambulance Driver I’m not a real survivor’. It’s another majestic offering.

Late on, there’s the funk of the guitar-driven The W.A.N.D. to enlighten and provoke, as well as the quiet optimism of Goin’ On to draw the album to a close in suitably hopeful fashion – ‘we hold our breath til the morning comes, and at last the sun shines through’.

It says much for the brilliance of The Flaming Lips that an album born out of so much anger, frustration and doubt can give rise to records of such beauty, power and reflection.

At War With The Mystics is therefore another towering achievement that charts dark territory in the most uplifting and beautiful way possible. Don’t miss it!

Click here to find out more about The Flaming Lips

Track listing:

  1. The YeahYeahYeah Song…(With All Your Power)
  2. Free Radicals (A Hallucination Of The Christmas Skeleton Pleading With A Suicide Bomber)
  3. The Sound Of Failure / It’s Dark…Is It Always This Dark??
  4. My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion (The Inner Life As Blazing Shield Of Defiance And Optimism As Celestial Spear Of Action)
  5. Vein Of Stars
  6. The Wizard Turns On… The Giant Silver Flashlight And Puts On His Werewolf Moccasins
  7. It Overtakes Me / The Stars Are So Big…I Am So Small…Do I Stand A Chance?
  8. Mr. Ambulance Driver
  9. Haven’t Got A Clue
  10. The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat)
  11. Pompeii am Götterdämmerung
  12. Goin’ On