By The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips have achieved with their last 2 albums what evades 99.9% of all other 'successful' acts - whatever your criteria for classing that is. With the breakthrough of "The Soft Bulletin" (1999) and the follow up in 2002's "Yohsimi Battles The Pink Robots" Flaming Lips were placed in the premier league of international acts both critically and commercially. With each new album their artistic integrity has grown along with the size of their audience which is not common for stadium sellers to hang on to for long. So it's 2006. Where does a band that's been together over 20 years, spent most of that time on the fringes, survived the usual drug addictions etc, and then achieved just about everything go? Selling out or falling short with a new record is not an option.
"At War With The Mystics" is the Lips getting back to basics, of a sort. Gone are the processed and sampled drum beats that littered "Yoshimi..." replaced instead with untreated guitars and keys. Funk is probably the most represented style on this album with "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals" both drawing on it, but the album is littered with other references. The Beach Boys and (bizarrely) early Queen are two prominent influences on the record which Flaming Lips blend superbly with complicated backing vocal harmonies and arrangements. While the influences are undeniably retro this is music sent recorded delivery from the future.
The albums most chilled out moment and potential future single "Mr Ambulance Driver" is one of the records highlights dominated by a retro sounding 70's Fender Rhodes. The other major triumph of the record is the lead vocal debut of multi-instrumentalist Stephen Drozd on the penultimate track "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung". Try introducing that on TOTP Ms Cotton.
Categorising this record with a single label is a very difficult task to achieve as each song on "At War With The Mystics" is an individual and self contained piece of work. The political tone of the album is the one characteristic that binds the songs together. On "The W.A.N.D"., "We've got the power now Mother fucker!", and on "Haven't Got a Clue", "Every time you state your case, the more I want to punch your face" are references to one Dubya perhaps. Yeah, probably.
The Flaming Lips are undoubtedly the world's most musically ambitious 40-somethings and with "At War With The Mystics" are still clearly light years ahead of the rest of the music fraternity. To follow on from the band's previous two seminal releases and for this record to still be in contention as their best is a success in itself.