Last time out, these unlikely psych-rock heroes strung together gurgling electronics, widescreen space funk and cushy soft stuff for a song suite about evil robots. With producer Dave Fridmann again in tow, their eleventh full-length album draws on many of the same sounds but feels almost homespun, with more diffuse songs that eschew sci-fi glory for a hit-and-miss smattering of concept-free weirdness. Winners like the leftist call-to-arms "The W.A.N.D." and "Free Radicals" brim with darting effects and Wayne Coyne's brightly warbled melodies, but they're surrounded by murkier cuts like "The Sound of Failure." Even on fully loaded songs like "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," a bouncy mishmash of acoustic guitars, studio high jinks and ya-ya-ya backing vocals that sounds like Neil Young inside a NASA rocket, the Lips' spacious attack feels a little tired. At War With the Mystics might be one of the year's best headphone records, but for the Lips, it's a step sideways.
From The Archives Issue 997: April 6, 2006