Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The sound of failure

Play it: The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics

Somehow, in the four years since The Flaming Lips last released an album (2002's wonderful Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots) the marquee value of the Lips has grown to it's greatest peak, in part due to their incredible live shows. Now that they've somehow crossed over to the mainstream's consciousness (coupled with the four year delay) the stakes are understandably higher. So it's with great regret that I find this album a slight dissapointment. That's not to say it's a bad album, au contraire, it merely falls short of the masterpiece that their last couple albums have suggested.

Advance peeks at the album ("The W.A.N.D." and "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song") suggested a return to their guitar-based rock of yore, but that was quite a misrepesentation. Dave Fridman (the fourth Lip?) is still on board to twist the knobs and coax endless magical sounds out of the trio, but the album gets off to a mostly uneven start. While Yoshimi..., dealt beautifully with a post-9/11 world, At War with the Mystics (as the title subtely suggests) points it's finger at the Bush administration, and when Coyne turns his wacky pen to a target, the results are always interesting. The album starts off with the amusing "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" which deals with abuse of power:
If you could warp the world with the flip of a switch, would you do it? (yeah)
If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich, would you do it? (yeah)
Then it goes off the map with the Prince meets Beck in a back alley ("say what?") of "Free Radical." They squeeze some interesting sounds out of this funk number, but ultimately it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. After these two toss-offs, you might give up on the album, but it's at this point that the Lips get down to business.

The next song, "The Sound of Failure/Darkness" (one of the album's centerpieces,) deals with the drawn out death by cancer of a friend's father and the annoyance she felt at having to hear the fake enthusiasm of fluf-acts like Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Black-Eyed Peas, Ashley Simpson, etc. being played where ever she went ("so go tell Britney and go tell Gwen...") It's a beautiful song of empathy, with some disdain set aside for those that lack it. This is followed by the equally expansive "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" and "Vein of Stars" and with these three songs in succession, it feels like the makings of another great album.

Then the Lips set the course straight for the Pink Floyd heart, with space-y "The Wizard Tuns On." Later they get even more blatant about their PF fixation with "Pompeii AM Gotterdammerung," which both masterfully rips off yesterday's profiled song ("One of These Days") and features Steven Drozd first lead vocal turn. Of the rest, "Haven't Got a Clue" goes after Bush again (with unfortunate lyrical turns) and is another track that sticks out for it's mediocrity. Meanwhile the final track "Goin' On" is another highlight of the album, a fitting way to close the album. But then there are the bonus tracks, and while "Bohemian Rhapsody" is ballsy (and, well, fun,) it feels entirely unecessary.

It's an album that's growing on me, I'll admit, but there's no hope for it to equal their last two, and that's alright, I've decided. Perhaps it will reach more ears and warp some more minds as a result...we can only dream.

The Flaming Lips track notes to At War With the Mystics

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drake leLane said...

The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics

1. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
2. Free Radicals
3. The Sound Of Failure
4. My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion
5. Vein Of Stars
6. The Wizard Turns On...
7. It Overtakes Me
8. Mr. Ambulance Driver
9. Haven't Got A Clue
10. The W.A.N.D.
11. Pompeii AM Gotterdammerung
12. Goin' On
13. Bohemian Rhapsody (Bonus Track)
14. The Gold In The Mountain Of Our Madness (Bonus Track)
15. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (Long Version)

Anonymous said...

"warp minds"????

you are a fool for thinking this *now* pseudo-psychedelic band is still capable of doing such a thing.

next time you catch them live, close your eyes and tell me what you "see"

without the bunnies and balloons and confetti and stage-left/right hangers on all around to distract you, their currently benign controls should easily reveal themselves. [hint: they are far, far, FAR from the heart of the sun]

all that said, you are on the right track with your assessment here...

keep it up, and take it a step further (you're getting warm)

drake leLane said...

as far as warping minds, I was referring to the MOR set, that the album seems more geared to.

it's all relative...