Release Date: Apr 4, 2006
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
For gossip-lovers, the highlight of this year's South By Southwest music conference was Morrissey's ill-tempered criticism of the Arctic Monkeys. The nub of his grievance was that they had rocketed to stardom without "driving up and down the M1 in a van for 15 years". Apart from the fact that this was like the former singer of the Pots calling the Kettles black - as he acknowledged in his subsequent apology, the Smiths' career moved just as swiftly - it was a curiously old-fashioned objection.
Since 1999's The Soft Bulletin, the Flaming Lips have issued an album once every three or four years -- roughly once per presidential term, making At War with the Mystics the second album they've made during George W. Bush's presidency. While Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' themes of seizing the moment and accepting mortality could easily be read as a reaction to 9/11, At War with the Mystics is a more overtly timely album for the mid-to-late 2000s, dealing with the motivation behind the war in Iraq and Bush's presidency.
The Flaming Lips are calculated risk takers. Nobody would accuse them of being conventional or complacent, but it's easy to overestimate the magnitude of their experimental bent. Part of the reason they branch out so well is that they do it in focused and finite ways. They're into tampering with the means of production, but the songs remain accessible and listener-friendly at heart; even Zaireeka wasn't so very strange once you assembled (or approximated) the four CD players necessary to hear it.