After the critical lovefest that surrounded the Flaming Lips' last album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, it would be easy to suspect that the band would wander down the same road of futuristic leanings, drum 'n' bass and gargantuan stage shows, assured of the same success. But on At War with the Mystics, the Lips reinvent themselves; the band's sound is leaner, more reckless and -- despite the non sequiturs and shrill falsettos -- more mature. Abandoning the giant bunny heads and rediscovering guitars, the band serves up a catalog of '70s styles, from the white-boy soul of "Goin' On" to the album-wide smears of Pink Floyd that echo prominently in the instrumental jam "The Wizard Turns On." Wayne Coyne's lyrics span an equally wide gamut, from his now-signature ditties about death to political statements on terrorism and the life-affirming aspects of celebrity idolatry. But what holds it all together is what Coyne describes as his favorite instrument: the studio. On Mystics, the Lips prove, once and for all, their ability to stitch together a dozen disparate sounds and approaches, mashing polished walls of synth against gloriously sloppy stomp rock, making it all sound like the natural foundation for one glorious album.
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