GOOD DEEDS: The Flaming Lips get to be experimental and pop and political.
Two developments have defined the trajectory of the Flaming Lips since they emerged as Oklahoma garage-rock weirdos with a major-label alternahit in the ’90s. Wayne Coyne has figured out how to push the boundaries of experimentalism without abandoning the priorities of pop (hooks, choruses, etc.); he’s also learned how to use the platform he’s been given to do good deeds. The result is a band who often sound like Pink Floyd and, in the tradition of The Wall, toy with concept albums. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Reprise) was a call to hope, not arms, in the face of 9/11, though it was caged in orchestral terms that made the melodies as compelling as the message. At War with the Mystics is as accessibly odd as Yoshimi but more scattered and darker. With its throwaway title and skewed a cappella opening, “The Yeah Yeah Song” may seem like a joke, but before long Coyne’s asking whether we’d make the right moral choices, because, as he sings against strumming guitars and pounding drums, “You can not know yourself or what you’d really do with all your power.” Then, in a Princely falsetto buoyed by punkish electrofunk grooves, he fires off: “You think you’re so radical/In fact you’re just fanatical.” Coyne’s got heart: he may call out Britney and Gwen on the mid-tempo rocker “The Sound of Failure/It’s Dark . . . Is It Always This Dark?”, but he doesn’t take any cheap shops and ends up concluding, “Let them go on.” Even “The W.A.N.D.,” the most overtly anti-war song here, retains that sense of magical realism that’s always been Coyne’s greatest asset: he imagines having the “magic stick” that will “make them all fall.” It’s a nice thought, and for three minutes he almost makes you believe it could be that simple.
Flaming Lips | Bank of America Pavilion, Northern Ave, Boston | September 10 | 617.228.6000