The Flaming Lips are from Oklahoma City but that doesn’t mean they aren’t from another world. The Flaming Lips band constantly exhibits shape-shifting abilities. Their latest album, “At War with the Mystics,” is no exception.
The band began 20 years ago as a teenage death rock quartet playing gigs at a midwestern transvestite bar. They later became disco fans while opening for punk bands like Black Flag and the Minutemen. In the ’90s, experimenting with sleep deprivation, they became a noise band. In 2006, they have emerged as psychedelic rockers singing protest songs at funk clubs set in outer space.
Resembling 1950s science fiction movies, the latest Flaming Lips album is futuristic rock ‘n’ roll with retro appeal. It’s hip, full-bodied psychedelica with adventurous content, reminiscent of Pink Floyd in the Syd Barrett days. The music also has something in common with T-Rex, Prince, Black Sabbath and the darker side of the Beach Boys. Like every Flaming Lips album to date, “At War with the Mystics” is an odd but successful blend of musical influences.
Sure hits are the reinterpretation of “Hollaback girl” and the song “It overtakes me.” The final song on the album is a celebration of life and death with a peaceful melody based on Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.
Multi-tracking and rich layers of sound are consistently driven by electric guitars and graceful percussion. The album is upbeat even when the lyrics are not.
Discussing the album on the Flaming Lips Web site, band member Steven Drowd said, “I realize there are some ‘heavy’ themes, but there are some silly bits as well. Hell, we’re just having fun!”
For the first time in 20 years the Flaming Lips are addressing politics in their music. This year’s official T-shirts read, “Let’s go to Mars not Iraq!” Flaming Lips lead man Wayne Coyne said some of the recent songs “rail against the greedy, corrupt evil beings who are in control and trying to enslave us.”
During the course of their latest and possibly greatest album, the Flaming Lips relinquish dreams of a peaceful planet and propel themselves into a hopeful outer space. Melodic and scientifically advanced, this album would be best enjoyed traveling in a rocket far away from the troubles here on Earth.