Few other bands of our era had less auspicious beginnings than the Flaming Lips. To begin with, they were from Oklahoma, hardly a hotbed of music, other than country. Their early albums, which saw a number of lineup changes and musical directions, were as much acid fried art projects as music. Yet they kept on, signed to a major label, and scored an unexpected hit with "She Don't Use Jelly." Then they kind of disappeared again and it seemed they were back to experiments that only hardcore fans would like, such as the 4 part album "Zaireeka," for which all 4 discs were meant to be listened to simultaneously. Then with the back to back triumphs of "The Soft Bulletin" and "Yoshimi," they transitioned from Okie space freaks to festival superstars, where they remain today. "At War with the Mystics" marked a serious decline in quality from their previous efforts. All the elements were there (producer Dave Fridmann, the title, the artwork, the lush, spacy music, the over the top songs), but, for the first time, it felt stale and uninspired. I wouldn't call Wayne Coyne a great singer, but he at least has passion, while here he's never been easier to ignore, which is also true for the seemingly made up on the spot lyrics, which features such gems as "You haven't got a clue and you don't know what to do" and "It overtakes me, it overtakes me, it overtakes me." They were in danger of becoming a gimmick band until returning to form with the wild and wooly "Embryonic" and the dark, oppressive "The Terror."

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