The Flaming Lips – Peace Sword (Bella Union)

One of this world's most prolific bands refuses to stop creating weird, wonderful, and quite brilliant, music

Released Nov 4th, 2013 via Bella Union / By John Dineen
The Flaming Lips – Peace Sword (Bella Union) The Flaming Lips return with their fifteenth release in the last two years. That could be a record. This is not a band to rest on their laurels and thankfully also not a band to repeat themselves, which helps to explain how they’ve remained interesting and relevant for thirty years. Whilst never boring, The Lips have been known to test the patience of even the most devoted psychedelic traveller with a discography where the line between inspired and weird has been forever blurred. However, the Flaming Lips of 24 hour-long songs and four-disc simultaneous plays are largely absent in this almost conventional six-track EP.

The Peace Sword EP was spawned by a commission to help soundtrack the now notorious, and presumably rubbish, science fiction film Enders Game. The filmmakers rejected much of their work which the Lips have recycled into this release. Obviously, it’s amazing that The Flaming Lips don’t soundtrack every science fiction film considering their lyrical obsession with robots and space, their futuristic electronic sound and the fact they even made one themselves; Christmas on Mars.

If there is a sonic touchstone for this release in the Lips back catalogue, then suitably enough it would be the space opera that is Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Acoustic instruments and processed percussion mingle with warm synthesiser tones and epic orchestration. The title track sees Wayne Coyne exalting us to open our hearts in a very Yoshimi combination of almost cartoonish psychedelia and earnest hippy platitudes. This is a welcome change of tack after the relentless doom of The Terror, which undoubtedly alienated the more smiley element of The Flaming Lips' audience.

This doesn’t mean to say that the Lips have abandoned the malevolence of The Terror completely. On tracks like 'If They Move, Shoot Em', manic drum manipulations sit behind brutal synthesiser sweeps and embody the soundtrack to a preposterous battle scene from David Lynch’s Dune. On the other hand, tracks like 'Is the Black at the End Good' has the anthemic, emotive quality of classic tracks like 'Waiting For Superman'. “Everywhere that love is that’s where I will be”, sings Coyne with perhaps more hope than the convictions of the past. He sounds wearier and less certain than before which is as charming as it is less immediate and thrilling.

'Wolf Children' is a showcase for multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd’s weird funkiness whilst the frankly dull-yet-epic closing track 'Assassin Beetle' recycles many of Peace Sword’s themes in true prog fashion. However, this is a rare lapse, in what is an effecting collection that feels more like a coherent record than the soundtrack cast-off that it essentially is.

If anything, its slightly forced, hopeful tone only magnifies the intense and uncompromising brilliance of The Terror, which in our Orwellian surveillance state seemed disturbingly pertinent. Nonetheless, Peace Sword is a typically unique and enjoyable EP that, whilst harking back to a more commercial, poppy Flaming Lips, ends up feeling less authentic than their more apocalyptic recent work.