The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics

The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics
With 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 Coyne’s writing is abstract but there’s something meatier and uniquely American about "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and "Haven’t Got a Clue,” which practically knock on the White House’s front door. Coyne takes aim at an empty pop culture landscape on the soaring "The Sound of Failure/It’s 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,” there’s something majestic about the prog/funk of "The Wizard Turns On,” and "Vein of Stars.” While "Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung” is significant for Steven Drozd’s premiere as a lead vocalist, it’s Coyne’s 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 we’re gonna stop a war or change Bush’s mind by making radical rock music; that’s never gonna happen. But we sing songs about stopping the war because they’re fun to sing and they let you release a certain anxiety or frustration, like all art does. That said, when I sing, "You think you’re radical/you’re 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 doesn’t 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. I’m on the side of mysteries but we don’t want that mysticism to be a veil for the truth.

Did you really record songs inside your bubble?
That’s how (producer) Dave Fridmann’s mind works. He could surmise that if you’re in this reasonably hard, plastic, circular environment, it’ll 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)