The Flaming Lips
Seven years into their career, things changed monumentally in 1990 for Oklahoma City's the Flaming Lips with the release of their seminal In a Priest Driven Ambulance. Fusing only bits of their endearing, off-kilter indie rock into a sonically intense and more innovative fuzzcraft of mid-tempo songs and walls of neo-psychedelic guitar drone, IPDA offered up such memorable pop thunder as "Unconsciously Screamin'" "Rainin' Babies" and "Mountainside." Their songwriting having drastically improved, each completed song brought new, succinct arrangements and different chord progressions -- yet the album as a whole had an incredibly loud, distinctive sound. Subsequent albums like Hit to Death in the Future Head and Transmissions from the Satellite Heart began yet another chapter in the Lips' ever-transforming career, employing more selectively the relentless yet blissful bombast of IPDA into beautifully orchestrated, stripped-down mega-productions of pristine guitar twinkle and LSD-impaired Beach Boys harmonies. (Transmissions also spawned the Lips' big moment in the mainstream sun with the ubiquitous "She Don't Use Jelly.") Since the untimely departure of guitarist/noise enthusiast Ronald Jones, the Flaming Lips have resembled more a pop-deconstructionist science fair than a rock band, with drummer Steven Drozd and founder Wayne Coyne working as synched-up visionaries rather than contributing members of the same band. 1999's The Soft Bulletin found them again on the cusp of disciplinary mastery, incorporating their bent inclinations and atmospherics even more subtly into their strangely familiar and narcotic brand of pop, while donning character costumes on stage. Their next release, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots followed the same path, albeit with even brighter production and a greater attention to detail. At its core, however, the record was a mediation on love, death and the assurance is life after almost unendurable psychic pain. On the Oklahoma City band's 2006 opus At War With The Mystics, spiritual leader and sonic ringmaster Coyne shows the sheer depth of his profundity when he casts his baleful eye outward, focusing his laser vision on current events; pointing a sharp stick at frothy pop icons, superficial thinkers, the abuse of power-both personal and political-and fanaticism wherever it shows up in culture. Their songs show that there's a lot more going on underneath those pink bunny suits than we ever imagined.