Published July 14, 2006
We watched, and listened to, the Flaming Lips drive an Acid Punk movement in the 90s, then they blew the introspective noise rock genre that the more popular Smashing Pumpkins were playing with to bits. And through all of this, they would get a few good reviews, but their concerts were word of mouth. You got postcards from lead singer Wayne Coyne. Then they got into British commercials. Now they’re Euro festival gods.
On the bright side, they got paid. On the other hand, they wrote this album, At War…, with juvenile, finger-pointing lyrics like: “You haven’t got a clue, and you don’t know what to do,” and, on a different track, “You think that you’re radical but you’re not you’re fanatical. Fanatical. Fanatical.” Yes, always repeated. That means it’s time to sing along.
The best way to explain the overall deterioration of quality with the Lips is to compare treatment of one of their favourite topics, the notion of power and its futility in daily life. The hit single off of At War with the Mystics is the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, which poses the question “If you could blow up the world with a flick of a switch, would you do it?… We can not know ourselves what you would do with all your power.” Compare this with Waiting for Superman, a song on Soft Bulletin written just after Coyne lost his father to cancer. Then, the take on power’s futility was a bit less aggressive and judgemental: “Is it overwhelming, to use a crane to lift a fly? It’s a good time for Superman, to lift the sun into the sky, because it’s getting heavy. Well, I thought it was already as heavy as can be… Tell everybody, waiting for Superman, that they should try to hold on as best they can…”
At War with the Mystics is a horrible record, much the same way that the new Neil Young record is horrible. It’s not just that the musicians had good history, it’s that the music they make now is retreaded, overconfident, and condescending and ultimately as arrogant as a Bush speech on foreign policy. BC