They Put A Spell On You
At War With the Mystics continues The Flaming Lips pursuit of meaning through whimsical storytelling and lush orchestration. Aurally more like revered classic The Soft Bulletin than 2002’s equally brilliant Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, A.W.W.T.M. features less of the electronics and processed beats that helped etch out their sound on the latter album.This time primary instrumentalist Steven Drozd takes each song to operatic heights with a melange of treated violins, analog drones, flutes and subtle guitar noise. Tracks such as “The Sound of Failure / It’s Dark, Is It Always This Dark??” and “Vein of Stars” make best use of these techniques at times eliciting feelings of epic grandeur not unlike that which Yoshimi’s “Are You a Hypnotist??” and “Do You Realize??” were capable of.
Other tunes, namely “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” tackle serious subjects with a slightly sillier approach, finding singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne musing “With all your power / what would you do?” amidst vocoder-based backing vocals and rocket-style sound effects. A few of Coyne’s lyrics here serve as more obvious veiled political statements (“Every time you state your case / the more I’d like to punch your face” and “You think you’re radical but you’re not so radical in fact you’re fanatical” from “Haven’t Got A Clue” and “Free Radicals” respectively), while others imply an insurmountable war against powerful, evil wizards (“The Wizard Tuns On” and “The W.A.N.D.”).
The strongest showing here comes in the form of “Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung,” a glorious outing with cinematic drum crashes from Michael Ivins and seraphic vocals from Coyne worthy of regard along the greatest moments in Pink Floyd or King Crimson’s career.
Those who entered at Yoshimi might consider this as a step back, but the Lips have found a way to evolve again, without carelessly knee-jerking for change.