THE FLAMING LIPS - “AT WAR WITH THE MYSTICS 5.1”
I originally reviewed this using my Flaming Lips forum username as a pseudonym. It seemed clever at the time but in hindsight just seems ridiculous. It frustrates me that more bands don’t seize the technology like the Flaming Lips do and put together packages like the one below. CDs are a redundant format now, merely something used for recording on like cassettes were 20 years ago. I still love my vinyl but if I have to take something on a digital format then it should be either a proper digital medium like DVD or just a lossless computer file like Flac.
So, I'd already bought this album when it came out on vinyl and being a bit of a sound-head, I avoided the coloured vinyl and plumped for the chunky black vinyl version. I suppose, you could ask me why I have gone and got this album again? Well, this is a bit different. I'll explain.
In this double pack, you get the normal album on CD and a DVD version. I'll skip over the CD in this review and hone in on the real goods here: the DVD. Firstly, you get the whole album remixed into 5.1 surround sound. And when I say remixed, the band and their mad scientist producer Dave Fridmann have not just split everything up into 5.1 but tinkered here and there, adding extra parts, dubbing out a bit more and generally reinventing the whole album in a gentle, subtle way.
No technology has been spared to take the sound to the highest levels afforded by DVD technology. Even with a basic system and stereo hi-fi, the sound quality is a noticeable improvement over any CD. For those lucky enough to have a DVD-Audio player and corresponding amplifier, the sound goes up to that level. I don't have that kit. I don't even have 5.1, just it's precursor (Dolby Pro Logic surround) but the sound still absolutely knocks my head off.
I'm a vinyl lover. I am not a CD buyer at all. I have also picked up more than 1 very lacklustre 5.1 remaster on an old album. However, when you hear what the Flaming Lips do with the technology, it really does sound like the future. In fact, it's fair to say that with this and their previous 2 albums' 5.1 remixes, they are literally pioneering sound.
The pop peak of “Yeah Yeah Song” comes across like the 22nd Century Beach Boys and the insane pounding prog of “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung”suddenly sounds like Wagner has come into your living room, surrounded you with his orchestra and started covering The Beatles “A Day In The Life”. Yeah, it's the shit.
It doesn't just stop at the best sound you've ever heard. The album is accompanied by a trippy dancing naked lady in outer space. And then you have the videos for the singles “Mr Ambulance Driver”, “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “The W.A.N.D.”. There are 6 bonus songs, including their mighty take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the lion's share of their recent b-sides. You also get 8 radio session versions of tracks from the album, capturing the songs often in a more stripped down, fragile state.
With this release, The Flaming Lips prove themselves to be not only pioneers but the most important song-writers of the digital age.
review by Ned