The Flaming Lips, a not typical band from Oklahoma City. Then again, the proudly oddball Lips aren't exactly typical of any band from anywhere. They've got a new war called At War With the Mystics. Here's music critic, Christian Bordal.


The opening track of The Flaming Lips' new record is a simple little song that's been given a dose of the band's madcap overdrive treatment, called appropriately enough, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song. It came together when lead singer Wayne Coyne overheard a crazy little vocal harmony his band mate, Steve Drozd, was working on.

Mr. WAYNE COYNE (Musician, Lead Singer for The Flaming Lips): I walked past there, and I heard this little chant, this little yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And immediately I thought, you know, we could make a song using that.

(Soundbite of song "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song")

THE FLAMING LIPS: (singing) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mr. COYNE: The very first line immediately came to my mind and it said, you know, if you could blow up the world with a flick of a switch, would you do it? And obviously, the reply is, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

(Soundbite of song "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song")

THE FLAMING LIPS (singing): If you could take all the love without giving any back, would you do it? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And so we cannot know ourselves or what we'd really do.

BORDAL: The Flaming Lips started as a punk band in Oklahoma City in 1983. But it didn't take them long to reach beyond punk and begin experimenting with studio technology, and piling their trademark stacks of sounds into mountains of beautiful weirdness.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. COYNE: We really didn't know how talentless we really were...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COYNE: we just sort of embraced this idea of making records anyway we could.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. COYNE: We sort of thought of the idea of more like, well, we can just kind of overdub a bunch of stuff, and no one's really going to know whether we're playing or not, and if we're lucky, we can make it sound like we're much better than we really are. And I think as we went along we just kind of embraced the idea of the studio being the instrument that we play.

THE FLAMING LIPS: (Singing) (Unintelligible) You can hear it as it flies. It's not very loud, but you can hear it if you try...

BORDAL: With song titles like Pilot Can at the Queer of God, and Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles, not to mention live shows with whacked out animal costumes, puppets, and video projectors, this is not your average, mainstream rock band.

But the Flaming Lips toured a lot. They developed a following. They got signed by a major label, and in '95, they even scored a hit song and turned up on MTV.

(Soundbite of music)

BORDAL: The band's latest album is called At War with the Mystics. And since America is at war, as some see it, with religious extremists, I asked Wayne Coyne if this is a political record. He said that some of the new songs definitely carry political overtones, but that doesn't mean the Flaming Lips is a political band.

Mr. COYNE: I think this has been a delusional quality to a lot of rock stars, and especially politically-oriented bands may think they're going to sing some song and they're going to stop a war by doing that, and we have no illusions that our music would ever do that.

(Soundbite of music)

THE FLAMING LIPS: (Singing) Time after time those fanatical minds try to rule all the world. Telling us all it's them who's in charge of it all. I got a trick, a magic stick that will make them all fall...

BORDAL: Now that they're a bit older and they've tasted mainstream success, will the Flaming Lips tame their zany ways to stay on top?

Mr. COYNE: For a group of, sort of, almost purposely oddball weirdoes like ourselves, I think it's only by accident that we, sort of, can make something that the mainstream can relate to.

BORDAL: Can you relate?

THE FLAMING LIPS: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

BRAND: Christian Bordal is an independent music critic and producer at KCRW in Los Angeles. The new CD by the Flaming Lips is At War with the Mystics, and you can hear full-length cuts from their new CD at our website

The FLAMING LIPS: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

BRAND: There's more to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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