Published Apr 11, 2007With the world unraveling bit by bit, the Flaming Lips needed to make a record as fascinatingly outspoken as this. Like musical Martians observing us with great concern, they convey all the frustration and optimism they can muster on At War With the Mystics. Wayne Coynes writing is abstract but theres something meatier and uniquely American about "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song and "Havent Got a Clue, which practically knock on the White Houses front door. Coyne takes aim at an empty pop culture landscape on the soaring "The Sound of Failure/Its Dark Is it Always this Dark?? and taps into the restlessness of youth on the brilliant "It Overtakes Me/The Stars Are So Big, I Am So Small Do I Stand a Chance? Beyond its overt socio-political commentary, the record also has a fantastical sound. For all the Sabbath-y riffs of "The W.A.N.D. or "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion, theres something majestic about the prog/funk of "The Wizard Turns On, and "Vein of Stars. While "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung is significant for Steven Drozds premiere as a lead vocalist, its Coynes experimentation with different voices (i.e. "Free Radicals) that gives the record its astonishing dynamic. In a bleak period, the Flaming Lips have responded with a raw, emotional record that gets deeper with each listen.
Are these protest songs?
Coyne: I have no illusions that were gonna stop a war or change Bushs mind by making radical rock music; thats never gonna happen. But we sing songs about stopping the war because theyre fun to sing and they let you release a certain anxiety or frustration, like all art does. That said, when I sing, "You think youre radical/youre really fanatical, I can see that being pointed at both a suicide bomber and at myself.
What does At War With the Mystics refer to?
When it pertains to George Bush, I think he has a gullible following here in America that doesnt question his ideology and his mysticism leads him everywhere he goes. If he says, "I woke up and God told me to go to war in Iraq, they go, "Okay and we go to war. Im on the side of mysteries but we dont want that mysticism to be a veil for the truth.
Did you really record songs inside your bubble?
Thats how (producer) Dave Fridmanns mind works. He could surmise that if youre in this reasonably hard, plastic, circular environment, itll be strangely reflective. I told him what it was like in there and he said, "We have to bring that up here for vocals, because how often do you get to record in a round room? (Warner)