The Flaming Lips | Peace Sword
by Mark Robinson
Oklahoma City musical outfit, The Flaming Lips, have been a musically multi-layered enigma for the past thirty years, and has spent the past five years going in a number of directions that for any other band would be career-ruining (a cover of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, anyone?), but for them is nothing out of the norm.
Their previous LP, The Terror, was an ambitious artistic statement: fractured, spacious, harsh and claustrophobic; but as tonal and sonically interesting the album was at times, it suffered in structure and form, bordering close to being lethargic and *gasp* dull.
Given that we have the Lipsha project on the cards, split-releases, fully collaborative LP’s, and gummy skulls filled with USB sticks, the concept of the band releasing a straight-up EP at this point is about the weirdest thing they could do. Indeed, though, he we are on the imminent arrival of an EP with no shenanigans, no USB sticks in site, and no Yoko Ono hiding around the corner.
Ok, a slight lie, Peace Sword was inspired by and written as the soundtrack for the new film Ender’s Game (which looks rubbish, it has to be said) and, at 36 minutes long, calling it an EP is a bit of a stretch. Although the hefty length can mainly be blamed on final track ‘Assassin Beetle – The Dream Is Ending‘, a ten minute long, multi-sectioned tour de force through the deepest annuls of space. It’s the closest link to anything resembling the bleakness of The Terror, and while the journey towards the midway breakdown is a slog, the EP’s finale tops anything from the previous LP.
Opener ‘Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)‘ is gloriously anthemic, where violins and synths swirl before giving way to a thick, pulsating bass tone. The music sounds euphoric against the almost sorrowful melody of Wayne Coyne, but it all merges into a mournful, psychedelic sigh. Apparently, besides the opener, the rest of the EP has been rejected for Ender’s Game, which seems baffling considering the marching drums and sci-fi war ensemble of ‘If They Move, Shoot ‘Em’ seems wholly appropriate. I’d be amazed if it didn’t end up in the soundtrack for the next Halo game. ‘Think Like A Machine, Not A Boy‘ goes all Eno/Bowie, but again falls into the trap of hitting all the right notes sonically, but failing to be all that interesting musically.
If nothing else, even as The Flaming Lips enter their fourth decade, their ability to create intricate soundscapes using the template of 60’s and 70’s psychedelic rock – and not sounding tired by the whole process – is a credit to their craftsmanship and technical abilities as a band. Peace Sword is not a progress in any particular direction, but at times it verges on being completely awe-inspiring. Now we just wait for that collaboration album with Ke$ha, eh?
Buy the Peace Sword EP here.