the sound of failure

atwarwiththemystics

i had attempted to write up my thoughts having revisited the flaming lips‘ 2006 album at war with the mystics. i was looking for an album to talk about, and the flips (as i like to call them) are playing electric picnic so i figured i’d give it a whirl. but i found it terribly difficult to get a handle on the album. for one thing i feel ill-equipped to talk about a band when i’m only familiar with three of their 11 albums. secondly, their lyrical content is either bafflingly bizarre or so plainly beautiful it merely bears repeating, rather than any analysis. the really bizarre thing is that the album sounds so out of time, that it doesn’t feel right placing it in 2006. that’s not to say it’s timeless – i’d be naive to assume that this album will last forever; indeed it doesn’t match up to 1999’s the soft bulletin. but for what it’s worth, this is definitely an album that should be listened to more often than i have. if it weren’t for the band’s insistence on returning to this island so often with the same show, i probably wouldn’t have lost interest in their output.

returning to the music. the one-two punch of the yeah yeah yeah song and free radicals really gets the blood pumping, before a series of melancholic down-tempo pieces calls sadder thoughts to mind.

off in the future, maybe there ain’t no heaven,
it’s just you and me and maybe it’s just as well,
’cause if there ain’t no heaven maybe there ain’t no hell?

the glorious the wizard turns on… raises as many questions as the (admittedly wonderful) lyrics above, and even won a grammy for best rock instrumental performance. not that the grammys always get it right… i can still remember sitting in a friend’s living room and feeling the cold grasp of shock when i heard the snarling guitar of the w.a.n.d. in an ad for budweiser. although i can’t be mad when i consider the fact that the night before i was at the crazy bud rising event in the guinness storehouse, where i saw diplo and carl craig. for free. my shock came more from the supposedly anti-establishment flaming lips lending such a song to an ad for beer – “we’ve got the power motherf*cker that’s where it belongs.” the rousing guitar theme is even further contrasted by the dramatic flute-led pompeii am götterdämmerung, which seems to capture the fear, anticipation and exhilaration of the citizens of pompeii as they attempted to flee the wrath of vesuvius. and album closer goin’ on takes things hurtling back to the present, pondering as it does the end of the bush administration.

it’s an album that relies heavily on the use of elaborate sonic textures, using the inimitable whine of the band’s frontman as an instrument in itself, colliding and playing with the warm and lush sounds created beneath him. it’s cinematic in its vision, dramatic in scale, and yet at the same time it speaks to listeners on such intimate terms that the band could be right there in your bedroom. it’s certainly more than just “those songs from the ads.”

The Flaming Lips – Vein of Stars
The Flaming Lips – The Wizard Turns On…
The Flaming Lips – The W.A.N.D. (The Will Always Negates Defeat)

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