Track-by-Track Review: The Flaming Lips’ ‘Peace Sword’ EP

Over the last few years, The Flaming Lips’ recorded output has mostly been relegated to gimmicky fluff (like a 24-hour song and music recorded on a USB within a gummy fetus). So it’s great to finally have our favorite psych-rock weirdos back doing what they do best: making albums. The Lips released the moody, terrifying (and all-around excellent) The Terror in April, and now they’ve followed up with the six-song Peace Sword EP.

The title-track was written for the upcoming Ender’s Game film, while the other five tracks were inspired by both the film and the original book (written by Orson Scott). Yesterday, the band released all six tracks via individual streams on various music websites. The digital version of the EP will be released on October 29th, with a limited edition 12″ vinyl and CD available on November 29th for Record Store Day’s Black Friday event.

Since the music’s already out there, we thought it would be fun to write an impulsive, track-by-track review.

(“If They Move, Shoot ‘Em” can streamed at NPR, and the other five tracks are available — via various outlets — at Consequence of Sound.)

“Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)”

The title-track opens the EP with spacey Mellotron-styled synths, eventually nestling into a funky drum groove, with Coyne’s cracked harmonies colliding in bursts of reverb. “Open your heart to me,” Coyne sings, as distant pianos, frayed acoustic guitar, and distorted bells enter the mix.

Gorgeous stuff — the most melodic track The Lips have written since At War With the Mystics…

Impulsive Rating: 9/10

“If They Move, Shoot ‘Em”

A creepy head-fuck of a track, “Shoot ‘Em” is an excellent bridge from the title-track’s Soft Bulletin-styled melodicism into the EP’s true heart of darkness. The track opens with a processed, backward-masked bass drone, decorated by Coyne’s eerie tenor and an army of pulsating synths. Eventually, we’re overtaken by glacial guitar ooze and Steven Drozd’s tinny snare march.

“Try to remember, it’s just a game,” Coyne sings. “No one really dies.”

Impulsive Rating: 8/10

“Is The Black At the End Good?”

More trippy synths, backed by a melodic bassline. Coyne channeling his inner balladeer (and struggling, as always, to stay in tune). Distorted drums and piano enter the mix, pushing the track forward to a satisfying crescendo. Not a stand-out on the EP — “Good” ventures awfully close to Polyphonic Spree territory in its comical sprawl. But it’s still undeniably pretty.

Impulsive Rating: 7/10

“Think Like a Machine, Not a Boy”

“My mind has been poisoned,” Coyne sings over blaring acoustic strums and industrial drones. The Lips have always been big fans of disorienting, confrontational mixes — and this track takes that effect to new extremes. It’s almost painful to listen to “Think Like a Machine,” which is reflected in the lyrics’ disillusioned gaze. Not filler by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely the EP’s low-point.

Impulsive Rating: 5/10

“Wolf Children”

This track, along with the subsequent “Assassin Beetle,” form a two-headed beast of funky freakiness. “Wolf Children” is the more conventional of the two tracks, boasting a stark bass/drum groove and a chant-able hook. If it pales at all, it’s only in comparison to its demented cousin, which closes the EP with a blast of The Lips’ trademark psych-prog weirdness.

Impulsive Rating: 7/10

“Assassin Beetle”

This 10-minute epic commences with more spacey synths before nestling into a Martian jungle of tribal tom-toms and skittering snares. Coyne’s lonely voice enters around the four-minute mark, chanting a rumbled mantra (“The dream is ending”) in his smoky lower register. Seven minutes deep, a trippy programmed beat enters the mix, leading to an orgiastic, psychedelic climax.

Impulsive Rating: 9/10

Overall Impressions: It’s great to see The Lips pushing their sound forward once again. They’ve blended the somber introspection of The Terror with the progressive, animalistic edge of Embryonic. Bravo, gents.

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