If you want to pour your music down the drain, there’s nothing like politics to do the trick. I say nothing, because I don’t think anyone wants to write songs about politics anymore; if they do it’s ambiguous, subtle, without risks. I guess that’s because musicians aren’t supposed to be preachers. And there’s a case against At War With The Mystics
for being preachy without the honesty to back it up, but you know what? When Wayne Coyne plays shows, he rambles about love and brotherhood until his giant hands are blistered and his pals in gorilla suits could faint from dehydration.
I think At War With The Mystics
makes a case for the simple statement, even if other musicians couldn’t have the same said of them- Wayne Coyne has a simple response to all the simple politicians who argue for the worse; for a guy living in the UK, songs like “Free Radicals” and “Haven’t Got a Clue” are affirming because
they’re simple. They could be open letters to the BNP. They’re not Coyne’s anti-politics songs, they’re Coyne’s aggressive hate-your-hate songs. They’re put out for a universal audience and they inject everyday reality into the Lip’s ever-growing world of spacey sci-fi and fantasy, and layer upon layer doesn’t harm them; the songs are more booming and exploratory than ever, and the messages behind them are well suited. It’s not so much a pompous political album than it is a straightforward social one, in this sense of being larger-than-life. I think the hope bubbling in the little-man’s “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion” translates best: “Don’t you believe them / they’ll destroy you with their lies / they only see the obvious, they see the sun go down, but they don’t see it rise.”
At War With The Mystics
is generous with melody too, a huge sounding record drenched in the distortion of guitars and drums, dusky ambience and bonfire flute fables. The band’s freak-outs are off-putting for fans of their chilled moments on Yoshimi
or Soft Bulletin
, and more so for diehards who think it cheapening to hear this after hearing Hit to Death
or Clouds Tate Metallic
. But it’s the best of both worlds. “The Sound of Failure” rocks out with free-flowing guitar riffs but retains its eerie atmosphere, “Haven’t Got a Clue” is punchy but transcendent, and “Pompeii Am Gotterdamerung” is everything Lips; the self-aware silliness, the noise for the sake of itself, and the wacky storyline about two lovers throwing themselves into a volcano. At War With The Mystics
blends what hippie love is left in Wayne Coyne with sweeping epics (“Pompeii” sounds dangerously Western) and explodes as a result. Granted it closes with a song that was never put beyond its keyboard trial, but “Goin’ On” still has the spirit of the album, with Wayne Coyne’s vocals pining for an anthem, pushing through more charming commands; “Listen, you’ll hear it.
I can’t help but feel all Wayne Coyne wanted to say in 2007 was that he wouldn’t wish war on anyone. I guess it just depends on whether you trust a guy who runs around in a plastic ball.