Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cosmic Americana


THE FLAMING LIPS
At War With The Mystics
(Warner Bros.)

Having become sentient in the mid-70s, somewhere in the middle of that that vast mountainous Pennsyltucky between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, I had a front row seat to one of the places where the 60's went to die: the hinterlands. While more cosmopolitan zip codes were sampling disco, cocaine, Members Only jackets and punk, all I could see growing up was ex-greaser shitkickers in dirty bellbottoms, Greg Brady haircuts, faded Dark Side of The Moon T-shirts and knocked-up girlfriends in peasant dresses billowing with pre-natal pulchritude, blasting Zep, Floyd and Yes in souped-up Camaros as they raced off to yet another keggar in the woods. I have it on good authority that the Flaming Lips grew up under similar circumstances in Oklahoma city. And much of their early career sounds like a band failing wonderfully to recreate their older brother's classic rock album collection -- without the pedigree, chops, major label magnanimity or luck of being at the right place at the right time that helped make so much of that music unforgettable. By the early 90s, they had discovered syrupy melody and radio-ready precision only complimented their appetite for noise and whimsy. By the late 90s, they had fully copped to their love of gatefold prog-rock, which was only then recovering a measure of respectability after years of punk's libelous whispering campaign. By the 21s Century, the Lips had fully embraced electronica, J-pop and pumping house music, and ingeniously grafted the best elements of those musics to recreate their tangerine dreams. They drove in this direction pretty much until the wheels came off with relatively recently with a series of increasingly pointless re-mix EPs that finally wrung all the seemingly bottomless flava out of 2002's uniformly excellent Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. The new At War With The Mystics -- how's that for a zeitgeist-capturing title? -- finds the Lips re-calibrating the ratios of clicks/buzzes/BPMs to classic hesher-rock, striking a balance that older rockist fans will more pleasing all the while retaining the gravity-defying superpowers that point-and-click production techniques afford mere mortal guitar-bands. As such, At War With The Mystics should please all facets of the Lips surging constituency: the ex-ravers that have seen the light; indie-rockers in search of father figures; aging acid casualties still trying to go furthur; and the people that choose music for commercials. I'll spare you the requisite adjective orgies about specific songs -- the whole album is currently streaming over at flaminglips.com -- but barring the occasional lapse into previously-chewed scenery, and the inclusion of the weak-ass "Mr. Ambulance Driver", this is yet another reason to believe that the Flaming Lips' psychedelic hot air balloon is still the most reliable transport to book when you wanna go somewhere over the rainbow.

1 Comments:

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