Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Flaming Lips 

At War with the Mystics (Warner Brothers)

Wayne Coyne promised a return to the guitar-grinding Flaming Lips of yore with At War With the Mystics, and he does deliver — kinda. Just like the Oklahoma freak-rockers' ADD stage show, there's more of everything here, with guitars being just another sliver of the whole gonzo pie: more studio trickery, more fuzzy atmosphere, more melodrama, more humor, more pathos, more politics. All of which, inevitably, leads to more inconsistency. And maybe more to love.

Nobody would make the mistake of calling 2003's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots a "focused" record. But by restraining himself thematically to matters of personal integrity — even while singing about evil space robots — Coyne gave that album a somewhat linear sense of storytelling. Mystics is more ambitious and more pointed in its purpose. Most of its twelve tracks are directed not at the listener but at the listener's perceived enemies: warmongers, politicians, nonbelievers, Gwen Stefani fans. They're the mystics referred to in the title, and standout tracks like "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" (an either-you-love-it-or-you-hate-it musical funhouse of looney-tunes funk) and its equally tweaky successor, "Free Radicals," taunt them directly. In between is breezy, sleepy '70s FM schmaltz-pop like "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" and "Vein of Stars," soothing, paranoid, and distant. These are the songs purists will point to when decrying the supposed watering-down and growing-up of the Lips' adolescent urges. And they're right — musically, "Pompeii Am Gotterdammerung" and tender album-closer "Goin' On" lean closer toward the pastoral psychedelica of early Pink Floyd than the Butthole Surfers' psychotic crunch. But consider this: Coyne just turned 45. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Drozd quit heroin and got married. This is not the Flaming Lips of twenty years ago. For some, that's a sad loss — but for others, it's a change to cherish.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Jonathan Zwickel

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 28, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2021 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation