Peace Sword (EP)

The Flaming Lips

Warner Brothers, 2013

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/18/2013

With an expansive, appropriately sci-fi cinematic feel, the Flaming Lips' Peace Sword EP arrives just as Ender's Game, the movie on which the music here is based, is a hit in theaters.

The title song was used in the movie; the other five songs are based on the movie and the book, and all retain a similar scope. At 36 minutes, this hardly counts as an EP, as four of the six songs are over five minutes and one is 11 minutes. The pace is deliberate, meant to evoke mood, and each song is imbued with a cold chill, synthesizer washes and multi-tracked, echo-heavy vocals that repeat simple themes like "Open your heart" and "Everywhere that love is / That's where I'll be."

Never one to shy away from prog-rock tendencies, the closing "Assassin Beetle – The Dream Is Ending" is a spooky instrumental that sounds directly inspired by Pink Floyd's early albums, with occasional snare drum fills, ghostly vocals echoing around the room and a multi-part approach that ties together the themes heard earlier. It is far too ambitious for the scant rewards it offers, unless you are a Lips or neo-prog-rock fan who is willing to absorb it all.nbtc__dv_250

Set to scenes from the movie, songs like "Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)" and the first half of "If They Move, Shoot 'Em" would make more sense, but divorced from the visuals the songs are monotonous, although I could see them being played in the background at a Starbucks. It isn't until the drums kick in on "Shoot" that the listener gets the message (and if that listener has listened to David Bowie's Berlin trilogy or Ummagumma, they may get it a little faster).

"Is The Black At The End Good" has a mournful psychedelic quality that somehow turns uplifting, a sort of modern take on "All You Need Is Love" that, even at a repetitive six minutes, radiates orange and warm fuzzy vibes, making the listener feel like they need to hug someone when it's over. "Wolf Children" is the opposite, a dense, inaccessible, somewhat funky number that runs far too long for what it offers (a theme of Peace Sword).

The other number, "Think Like A Machine, Not A Boy," uses a simple acoustic strum (awash in echo and ice), then overlays loud keyboard washes in a descending pattern that, for some reason, recalls "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun. Get past that and Wayne Coyne's repeated "I see beauty around me" lyric takes on a lovely hue. 

While the music isn't too far removed from the Lips' previous releases, it hardly reaches the heights of those, let alone earlier works like Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Five of the six songs run on too long and most of the lyrics are repeated in each song, and the distant chill makes it difficult to want to listen repeateadly, although those that do will discover the minor rewards within. That said, this is pretty much what a science fiction movie soundtrack should feel like; here's hoping the Lips get called on to score an entire movie in the near future.

Rating: C-

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