on 22 April 2006
For once, people should believe the hype- this album is fantastic. It is quintessential Flaming Lips, managing to marry Pink Floyd type psychedelia and musicality (in places, it sounds like "Dark Side" rewritten for the 21st century) with (I know this sounds a sin for music snobs) catchy and beautiful pop/rock, which would make Coldplay jeolous. The usual themes and styles are all here- simple lyrics about life/death married with lavish production, combining to create an album of incredible warmth and beauty and one which (despite the cliche) really does reward repeated listening. Most people will be blown away on first listen by the more instant tracks, such as "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song", "Free Radicals" and "the WAND" but, after a few listens, it is the less obvious songs like "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" and "Pompeii" that really strike a chord.
I have seen a number of reviews in which this album is compared unfavouarbly with the two that preceded it- Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi. For me, "Mystics" is more organic and warm than Yoshimi (the critics who complain about the indulgence of "The Wizard Turns On" here seem to have forgotten all about "Yoshimi Part 2" and seem to think that the last album consisted of 11 tracks all like "Do You Realise?") and, whilst I would agree that it is not as great as "The Soft Bulletin" (which, incidentally, is available from Amazon for less than a fiver, an absolute steal), that is an unfavourable comparison only in the sense that "Sgt Peppers..." is not as good as "Revolver". Furthermore, whilst I would agree that it is not the most immediate of albums, you have to ask yourself whether a great album is one that you can get into straight away; after all, on that test, "OK Computer" and "Nevermind" lag- for me, at least- well behind "Back to Bedlam" and "Hopes and Fears" and I know which albums are more likely to stand the test of time.
It may be that I have become jaded by the bizarre and unwarranted hype placed on bands like the Arctic Monkeys and albums like "X and Y" but I honestly believe that "At War with the Mystics" will ultimately be another in a mere handful of albums in my collection that I will return to, and be proud to own, a decade and more from now.
on 13 March 2006
Okay, well I presume if you've made it this far you already know who The Flaming Lips are and how brilliant their last two albums have been. This keeps up the trend set by those masterpieces, floating majestically from joyful pop genius (Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, The W.A.N.D) to melancholy and heart-stoppingly wonderful 'serious' songs (The Sound of Failure), which are also, erm, genius. And as for the reviewer below- tails off at the end??? Did you miss Mr Ambulance Driver and Pompeii am Gotterdammerung? The Flaming Lips music has evolved to a state of such brilliance they've prety much taken off into space. Not as good as The Soft Bulletin maybe, but still pretty bloody five-star fantastic! Ahem. A round of applause please for the best band on planet Earth.
on 27 April 2006
'The Soft Bulletin' and 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots', the Flaming Lips' previous two albums, have both received the sort of praise that doesn't come along very often. And this, inevitably, means that we're due a backlash. They couldn't put a foot wrong on '...Bulletin' and 'Yoshimi...', so there was no way they could maintain the same level of excellence for the third time. Right? Well, yes and no as it turns out. Firstly, the Flaming Lips are to be applauded for daring not to trot out the same formula for a third consecutive time. Had they done so, the album would have been treading water, resting on laurels - whatever you want to call it. The off-the-wall oddity of old makes something of a return: the swooning beauty of their two previous efforts is tempered with more of their pre-fame inverted acid drenched punk pop.
Opener 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah' song certainly taps into this vein: think Talking Heads criss-crossed with the Beach Boys at their bounciest and you won't be far wrong. If it's a welcome change, then the Scissor Sisters dirge that is 'Free Radicals' certainly isn't. In terms of pace 'At War With the Mystics' sprints out of the blocks with these two upbeat numbers, but then subsides into blissful melancholy for the next several numbers before resurfacing into chirpy mode with the cheesy verse/glorious chorus goggle-eyed chant that is 'It Overtakes Me'. As a whole this rather destabilizes the balance of the album, and certainly doesn't work first time out. But the second quarter of the album is certainly worth revisiting, featuring as it does moments of real power - most notably on 'My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion', every bit the equal of their dreamscape 'Yoshimi...' efforts. All the good work, alas, is almost undone by the bloated 'It's Dark...Is It Always This Dark' suite tacked on to the end of the otherwise majestic 'The Sound of Failure' and the pointless half-baked noodle of 'The Wizard...'
If the first half is maddeningly inconsistent then it doesn't bode well for the second half. Remarkably, the second half of the album is far stronger. There is one possible duff track in 'Haven't Got A Clue', which is something the band could have knocked out in their sleep if we're honest. But the closing trio of the album is probably the best closing trio to an album they have ever done and almost makes you forgive the below par tracks beforehand. 'The W.A.N.D.' is a triumphant return to 'Transmissions...'/ 'Clouds Taste Metallic' era Flaming Lips, only this time with added stinging guitar spice and extra catchiness. Future single for sure. The absurdly titled 'Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung' is surely one of the Lips' all time top five songs - definitely the best song Pink Floyd never wrote at the very least, and with emotional euphoric clout (the second 'Now we'll be forever holding hands' line is a glorious moment) to boot. And after all the impressive 'look what we can do' musical fireworks, Wayne, Steven and Michael pull it out of the bag by stripping it back to a simple piano for the final album track 'Goin' On'. A gloriously understated piece, it is decisively melancholic in subject matter but oddly comforting in tone. It's a perfect finale to a sprawling, often experimentally grandstanding work.
Not a masterpiece then. But there is more good stuff than bad stuff, and most of the good stuff is very, very good. Newcomers are advised to go for 'The Soft Bulletin' and 'Yoshimi' first. But for the established Flaming Lips fan, 'At War With the Mystics' has plenty to offer. 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.
on 18 March 2007
The Flaming Lips have now become predictably good. Yet some features of this adroit band remain entirely unpredictable, such as their desired artistic and thematic directions, which vary so erratically, yet laudably, with each release.
Here, the Lips choose to fully incorporate buzzing, distorted guitars for, arguably, the first time since 1995's 'Clouds Taste Metallic'. A track such as 'The W.A.N.D.' is more guitar-driven than anything you'll find on the two preceding albums, 'Yoshimi' and 'The Soft Bulletin'.
Moreover, thematically, the Lips have lent this album a previously atypical outward contemporary political edge, with 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' finding vocalist Wayne Coyne musing philosophically over the influence of power on the individual. Delightfully, though, the Lips have not shed their idiosyncratic skin, and whilst 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' may explore contemporaneously relevant themes, it is paradoxically unorthodox, with its robotic-sounding instrumentation and memorable 'yeah yeah yeah' harmonics. Pivotally, it sounds great and is a triumphant and apt commencement to AWWTM.
This disparity in style between AWWTM and the band's prior, aforementioned successes, has understandably left certain fans disappointed, however, even though this album may require comprehensive listening for steadfast 'Yoshimi' and 'Soft Bulletin' fans to acclimatise, it is well worth the effort, and the Lips must be commended for continually pushing sonic boundaries. This innovation is at its most glaring on the terrifically titled, 'Pompeii am Götterdämmerung', which encompasses some distinctive, skewed, psychedelic vocals, accompanied by haunting and rousing instrumentation, and is unlike anything in the band's back-catalogue. It's an irrefutably pioneering track.
So, for any Flaming Lips fan who has not purchased this gem yet, I will not ruin any more of its aural surprises. All I can suggest is that you buy this exceptionally inventive, painstakingly fashioned piece of work.
on 6 March 2006
So it's as good as Yoshimi. No problem. It's not as good The Soft Bulletin but the chances were always slim.
If you're a Lips fan, you know what's good about them and there's plenty of it here. So I'll just go explain my main problem with this album and the reason I don't give it five stars.
It's a shame to criticise At War with the Mystics for having three amazingly strong opening tracks. They almost work as an encapsulation of The Flaming Lips' recent work. There's the happy clappy pop of 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song', weired-out stop-start rhythms of 'Free Radicals' and slow, beautiful song about death 'The Sound of Failure'. All truly great numbers. The problem is the rest of the album sort of merges into one long dreamy soundscape afterwards and lacks a standout track like 'Do you realise?' or 'Gash' to lift it up to a glorious crescendo.
I've given it four stars because previously the Flaming Lips always effortlessly held my attention for the full duration of their albums. With At War... even after a week of listening, I'm still not hugely familiar with anything from track four onwards. I consistently find the album has played through without me really having noticed the back end much.
I'm hoping this is a case of my own failing and that, with a bit of time and effort, the rest of these songs will become firm favourites.
I'll be interested to see what other people think.
The Flaming Lips are back at last.
The most lovable rockers in the world have returned, in "At War with the Mystics." This isn't a concept album like their previous one; instead, it's the Lips doing the kind of wonky psychedelica that they do better than anyone else. It's joyous, riotous and wonderfully bizarre.
It opens with a trio of songs that sit on the border between catchy and psychedelic: a cheery little opener that asks some important questions, ("If you could make everybody poor/just so you could be poor/would you do it?... With all your powers, what would you do?"), a guitar-grinder that bashes a "poor man's Donald Trump," and slips into shimmering, murky pop.
Then the Lips take a trip into more experimental places, and the results are breathtakingly beautiful. They fill the delicate songs with fluttering electronica, bittersweet songwriting, and epic soundscapes. It reaches a peak with "The Wizard Turns On...," a sort of Floydian journey song.
Then it's back to to the less ethereal stuff. A soft psychedelic tune with a siren, a shuddering rock tune, and fuzz-rocker. "Time after time those fanatical minds try to rule all the world/Telling us all it's them who's in charge of it all!" Wayne Coyne sings in "W.A.N.D," arguably one of the best songs of the album.
"At War with the Mystics" is like being stuck in a colourful time warp -- the Lips explore their softer, psychedelic music, and mash it together with their older fuzz-rock/punk stuff. Anyone expecting "The Soft Bulletin II" or "Yoshimi: The Sequel" will be disappointed, but someone expecting some lovable rock will adore it.
It does have one flaw: unevenness. The album has two different styles, and those styles are flipped to and fro, sometimes with no warning. But despite that, it's exuberant, complex and completely weird. Fuzz rock, prog, psychedelic sweeps, flutes and sparkling melodies are all woven together into a dizzying tapestry.
Wayne Coyne is the heart and soul of all this music, with his slightly off-key voice. And he's the perfect man to go on this musical journey -- cheery and upbeat at first, but then he becomes more introspective, looking over the "fanatical minds" and greedy people, before deciding that "we're getting near it/I know I really fear it/let's pretend it's just another day..."
It's a credit to the Flaming Lips that through a long career (and different levels of fame), they've managed to keep that innocent enthusiasm. And "At War With the Mystics" just keeps up with the love.
on 19 July 2006
In interviews leading up to the release of At War With The Mystics, lead Lip Wayne Coyne was enthusing about how much the band were enjoying playing Black Sabbath's War Pigs live and promising a move to more of a hard-rock direction. Sure there is more distorted bass than before though fans of the band's brilliant two previous LPs - 1999's Soft Bulletin and 2002's Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots - will not be disappointed by the new album.
One difference between AWWTM and its predecessors though is that you are less likely to hear the best tracks from the new LP on the radio. Although lead single The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song is excellent, some of the other more immediate songs such as Free Radicals and the main body of It Overtakes Me are slightly over reliant on one riff or chord sequence.
No need to worry though as they are still pretty good and the best bits of At War With The Mystics are magnificent. Particular highlights for me are the Pink Floyd influenced Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung and acoustic prog arpeggios at the end of the aforementioned It Overtakes Me. The crowning glory though is The Sound Of Failure with its excellent melody and hypnotic soul-influenced guitars which remind me strangely of classic Marvin Gaye.
When it comes to mesmerising musical passages, there's barely a band around who can beat the Flaming Lips. At War With The Mystics is another superb LP which, like its two predecessors, is among the best releases of the last 10 years.
on 4 June 2013
At War With The Mystics may just be The Flaming Lips most mis-understood album yet. Criticism towards it points out that it feels dis-jointed, has weaker lyrical content and sounds like a bunch of random ideas thrown together. I disagree. This album carries on where Yoshimi left off but has a more fun, upbeat, psychedelic feel to it. Admittedly the lyrics on some of the songs (The W.A.N.D, It Overtakes Me, Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, Haven't Got A Clue) aren't Wayne Coyne at his genius best but are by no means weak and still manage to come across as very memorable pop songs that have earned the band many new fans and rightly so. Thats not to say the band have completely left behind the more melancholic sound they are better known for - see tracks like The Sound Of Failure, Vein Of Stars, My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion and the end of It Overtakes Me, which although different in terms of overall sound are cut from the same cloth as the previous 2 albums. AWWTM gets more and more rewarding with every listen just like most Lips albums. Its more varied than anything else they have done but when listened to from start to finish is a very enjoyable listen that changes in the right places, has extreme highs and lows & despite having many different influences is very much The Flaming Lips all the way through.
on 4 April 2006
Having been a long time fan of The Flaming Lips (since 1993's brilliant Transmissions From The Satellite Heart) I have always looked forward to their next and next albums, wondering what new direction they will take. Backstory: Of Their earlier work, Hit To Death In The Future Head (1990) still remains probably their greatest rock n pop work, this was followed by Transmissions which began to take the Lips in the direction they have been following since. Then came Clouds Taste Metallic, an under-appreciated and wonderfully conducted album. The range of instuments and their use had lessened, but the songs remained great, the lyrics unbeatable in their creativity. This was followed by their greatest work Zaireeka. I say greatest for it is their most daring and BIGGEST album they have yet made, keeping their usual lyrical tone and mixing it with instrumental power so great that if you listen to all 4 CDs at once you can seriously get lost in the dreamworld they seem to have created. The Soft Bulletin came next, and this took a little time to warm to... having followed their greatest work, it seemed like a step backward, and yet forward at the same time in that they took what they had learned from Zaireeka and mixed it with what they knew all along. Now to me it stands as a good 4* album with some great pop rythem and wierdness that exemplifies what the Lips are about now. Then Yoshimi came along, the album that really introduced the Lips to a more mainstream audience. This album zipped! I still think it's not as good as their 90's efforts, but it seemed like they were taking a new and interesting direction. It was like nothing else at the time. I was hoping for this pop-blown nuttiness to continue into War Of The Mystics, which lets face it, has been a long time coming. As initial reactions go with Lips albums, I have always been impressed, if not wholly satisfied. I listended to At War With The Mystics this morning, and appart from a few great tracks (The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and specifically The W.A.N.D) I was very disappointed. Don't get me wrong, there is some pure Lips greatness in there, but it doesn't feel like an album. It feels like an overly long E.P. A couple of cool A-tracks, a bunch of B-sides and some tag-ons. Where was Wayne's lyrical supremeness? Samey. Opting more for repetition and for the orchestral strings to speak for the songs. And I'm sorry if everyone disagrees, but Track 2 (Free Radicals) is just awful. Stop start, stop start... just can't get my head around it. It feels like being trapped inside a computer from the 70s that is slowly breaking down. The album just reminds me of the B-sides to all the singles/E.Ps they realeased for Yoshimi, the tracks that weren't good enough to go on the album. Even some of the good tracks are diminished by their lengthy never-endingness. Sad. I hope it grows on me, I really do, but I had to listen to Transmissions on my way to work to make myself a believer again.
on 18 July 2006
When I first listened to this album, I really didn't like it. Like the reviewers below, I couldn't see what the fuss was about. Anyway, I was on the Tube this morning, listening to this album, when it just clicked. I confess that some of the reason for this was seeing them live a couple of weeks ago at the Wireless festival; however I can't escape the feeling that the album made perfect sense! I would buy it, give it chance, and then have many hours of happy listening.