In the aftermath of April’s minimalist full-length ‘The Terror’, singer Wayne Coynes’ debut as a comic book artist, and an allegedly botched collaboration with pop diva Ke$ha, comes yet another new release from the unremitting Oklahomans.
This new EP, ‘Peace Sword’, takes its cues from big-budget sci-fi adventure Ender’s Game although only the title track is set to appear in the actual film. Apparently, the band was inspired during its making and decided to package it a handful more songs in roughly the same vein. Unsurprisingly, such a spacey setting fits the Flaming Lips like a cybernetic hand-in-glove. The band’s always had an affinity for futuristic rock operas and the result is a wide-screen head trip full of squelching vintage synths and swirling vocals.
In recent years the band has received more attention for outlandish PR stunts than their music (baking USB drives into gummy skulls, recording a 24 hour long song, collaborating with Ke$ha) and although this tie-in EP certainly has the makings of a cash-grab, it stands well on its own and retains that classic Lips vibe.
Opener and title track, ‘Peace Sword’, subtitled (Open Your Heart), kicks off with some strings and a decidedly Pink Floyd style synth drone before heading into a repetitive hook-laden verse consisting mostly of Coyne repeating variations of the aforementioned subtitle; his manipulated voice sloshing around the stereophonic room in traditional space rock fashion. It’s as accessible as the Lips get these days and reminiscent of the timeless sound the band achieved on turn-of-the-millennium masterpiece The Soft Bulletin.
After this uplifting ditty the EP sets its controls for darker territories more in sync with what we heard on The Terror earlier this year, although not quite as dissonant and bleak. ‘If They Move, Shoot ‘Em’ lives up to its harsh name with incessant electronic pulses and pounding drums leading the creepy track as Coynes’ faint voice reminds us that “It’s just a game, no one really dies”, morphing blocks of sound crashing all around him.
‘Is The Black At The End Good’, leads us to believe we’re heading in the same direction but ends up being the type of cutely stoned ballad we’ve heard from this band many times before. Formulaic or not, this piece of laidback naïve psychedelica is undeniably endearing. Also worth mentioning is the closer, ‘Assassin Beetle – The Dream Is Ending’, a long droning freak-out melding together chunks from the rest of the EP before fading into a fuzzy doomy fizz. However, at ten minutes this track just ends up feeling like microwaved leftovers instead of the eyebrow-raising bookend it could have been.
Even though it’s more of a return to formula than form for the Flaming Lips, Peace Sword definitely has enough exciting moments to warrant interest, even though the songs all too often end up latching onto one or two concepts and repeating them indefinitely while the band dribble trippy synthesizer noise on top as if to hide the fact. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the band, the cosmos or just heavy use of stereo panning, you will not be disappointed.