Disc Reviews

As demonstrated with new albums by The Flaming Lips and Mystery Jets, progessive rock is alive and well on both sides of the Atlantic, and hiding behind the comfortable confines of the alternative label.

April 25, 2006 11:28
2 minute read.
flame disk 88 298

flame disk 88 298. (photo credit: )


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THE FLAMING LIPS At War With the Mystics (Hed Artzi) As demonstrated with new albums by The Flaming Lips and Mystery Jets, progessive rock is alive and well on both sides of the Atlantic, and hiding behind the comfortable confines of the alternative label. One of America's most revered alternative band The Flaming Lips continue on their merry way with At War With the Mystics. Led by Wayne Coyne, the veteran band with Oklahoma roots use the studio as a big playground, liberally sprinkling multilayered elements over their expansive pop - like sound effects mixed with fuzz guitar, mellotrons with choirboy harmonies - and the end result is something like a spunky Pink Floyd with fixation on 70s AM radio. Coyne writes such effervescent pop tunes with lush and dreamy instrumentation that you tend to forget that the lyrics are often subversively dealing with serious topics. Take, for example, "It Overtakes Me" - the bulk of which is a bouncing ditty which Coyne said he wrote with Gwen Stefani in mind and originally titled it "I Like to Masturbate and Think of Outerspace." From that frivolous premise, the song slows down into a passage of shimmering beauty with the desolate lines "And I'm there, looking up at the sky, And I'm scared, thinkin' about the way that I don't understand anything at all… And how it overtakes me… and I am just so small… Do I stand a chance?" Not your usual pop song fodder. Other tunes deal with the state of world affairs - "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" - which over cutesy doo wop vocals and chiming acoustic guitars ask the musical question "If you could blow up the world with the flick of a switch, would you do it?" From the early Steely Dan groove of "The Sound of Failure / It's Dark… Is it Always This Dark?" to the throbbing prog rock of "Popmpeii Am Gotterdammerund," it's evident that the Flaming Lips have made another original album that spits in the face of the uniformity found on the pop charts. MYSTERY JETS Making Dens (Hed Artzi) Touted as British pop at its most invigoratingly weird, the debut of Mystery Jets owes another nod to Pink Floyd - this time to the playful Syd Barret version which released wonderfully odd 1960s songs like "See Emily Play" and "Arnold Layne." Comprised of four 20-year-olds and one of the 20-year-old's slightly older father (he's 55), this could possibly be the first father/son combo in a rock band since the late '60s cult band Spirit. Elder statesman Henry Harrison's record collection proved the catalyst for the younger generation, particularly those old Floyd tracks, along with evidently some of The Kinks very British mid-60s opuses. Stressing tight harmonies, intricate arrangements, quirky lyrics, and a paisley '60s sound mixed with post-punk drive and energy, the band impresses and surprises on the 12 tracks, incorporating within its numerous time changes some rousing pop choruses that would make Oasis jealous. Always challenging, and rarely disappointing, both Mystery Jets and the Flaming Lips prove there's still room for creativity and vitality in today's increasingly homogenous pop world.

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