Review: The Flaming Lips’ “Peace Sword”

Categories: Chicago Sun-Times

The Flaming Lips
“Peace Sword”
(Warner Bros.)

This new installment from the Flaming Lips is being marketed as an EP, but at about 36 minutes, it could be seen as their second full-length album this year. Following on the heels of “The Terror,” the band’s bleak opus released in April, this six-song collection, in stores Friday, is much more buoyant. The title opener sounds culled from the band’s romantic “Soft Bulletin” era, with smeary synths and drum loops, as well as the vocals of leader Wayne Coyne in heavy reverb.

The inspiration here is “Ender’s Game,” the sci-fi film based on the Orson Scott Card novel that imagines a young hero thrust into a dystopian battle for his soul (and the universe). The majority of these songs don’t appear in the film, but that’s optimum as the Coyne and Co. have logged years creating music that’s perfect for stargazing. The band’s history of veering between optimism and despondency strikes a balance here: “Is the Black At the End Good” is childlike in its simplicity, with Coyne singing “the sun is right behind us/though it’s dark and cold ahead/that’s just me being optimistic/I know, I know.” The song is slow and lush and sad and happy — A signature band combination captured perfectly.

The bed upon bed of celestial-sounding computers makes this an easy album of which to disappear inside. Despite the title, “Think Like a Machine, Not a Boy” celebrates the beauty of nature. The playful funk of “Wolf Children” is similarly playful. But, as on any output from this band, the darkness is not far off. A 10-minute suite, “Assassin Beetle – The Dream Is Ending,” ends the album — a prog rock swirl of previous themes, operatic fury, and Coyne intoning, “the dream is ending.”

With little filler, this slim collection capitalizes on band’s strengths and redeems them as restless innovators whose prime inspiration is that strange middle ground between takeoff and landing.

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