At War With the Critics

At War With The Mystics (Warner Bros)
The Flaming Lips

By John Bohannon

The Flaming Lips have always been at the forefront of the independent rock world, pushing boundaries, garnering about as much critical acclaim as one can garner and having a damn good time while doing it. That was all until their latest release, At War With the Mystics, hit stores - and it became, well, somewhat of a war with the critics.

Instead of listening to the current album, people were too busy comparing it to their previous best, The Soft Bulletin (1999). If there is any rule of thumb to listening to this album, it is this: take it for what it is. It's no Soft Bulletin or Clouds Taste Metallic, but it's a damned good album nevertheless - and if this were to be released by anyone other than the Flaming Lips, you can rest assure that this would most likely end up on everyone's top 10 lists.

The song craft is truly the Flaming Lips, weaving in and out of pop psychedelia, using whatever synthesizers or warping effects the band can possibly find. The opening track, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" (not to be confused with the band, The Yeah Yeah Yeah's), is the gem of the album, playing with Wayne Coyne's childlike side while addressing one of America's most important issues: greed. Coyne always seems to find a way to address issues, by doing it positively rather than writing just another "sad sappy bastard" song like Jack Black's character in High Fidelity would claim.

"The Wizard Turns On" obviously shows the band's love for The Dark Side of the Moon while "Free Radicals" is an oddball pop song that could be accessible to just about anyone with a brain. The first single, "The W.A.N.D.," plays out like a mix between their two previous albums Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot and Clouds Taste Metallic, with a wonderful blend of infectious guitars and pulsating electronics.

If you are going for this year's masterpiece, turn around and walk away from this disc. If you want an album that will enlighten you and make you feel good all around, then At War With the Mystics belongs in your record collection.

Get more at www.flaminglips.com.