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By Jonathan Valania
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 5, 2006

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Flaming Lips
At War With the Mystics
Warner Bros.

Having become sentient in the mid-'70s, somewhere in the middle of that vast mountainous Pennsyltucky between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, I had a front-row seat to one of the places where the '60s went to die: the hinterlands.

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 in the right place at the right time.

By the early '90s they'd discovered syrupy melody, and radio-ready precision only complemented their appetite for noise and whimsy. By the late '90s they'd 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 21st 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 relatively recently with a series of increasingly pointless remix EPs.

The new At War With the Mystics-how's that for a zeitgeist-capturing title?-finds the Lips recalibrating the ratios of clicks/buzzes/BPMs to classic hesher-rock, striking a balance that older rockist fans will find more pleasing, 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 satisfy all facets of the Lips' surging constituency: the ex-ravers who've seen the light, indie rockers in search of father figures, aging acid casualties still trying to go further and the people who choose music for commercials.

Barring the occasional lapse into previously chewed scenery, and the inclusion of the weakass "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.

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