Welcome back, heartfelt Wayne Coyne. That’s the first thing that came to my mind as I listened to The Flaming Lips Peace Sword. Sure, it’s songs from and inspired by some lousy movie based on a cultish sci fi book from the 80s called ‘Enders Game’, but that’s not the point. It’s those ideas put through the Lips bloody, psychedelic filter and then regurgitated on a musical canvas much like some hallucinogenic-fueled Jackson Pollock painting. This is also the most open and earnest the Flaming Lips have sounded in over 10 years.
“Peace Sword(Open Your Heart)” opens the album as if we were back in 2002, full of ‘Yoshimi’ optimism and that albums pomp and circumstance. “If They Move, Shoot ‘Em” follows with a more sinister vibe thanks to the ominious synths and the snare roll throughout. This song certainly has a film score-ish vibe to it. Then “Is The Black At The End Good?” comes in and suddenly it’s 1999 all over again. Coyne has that innocent lilt in his voice that we haven’t heard since “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”. This song is a cross between mid-70s John Lennon and Midlake, if that makes sense(even if it doesn’t, go with it.) This song give me hope that the Flaming Lips I fell in love with back in January of 1999 haven’t completely disappeared into the ether of freakout jams and gummy vaginas. It’s a truly beautiful and stunning song.
Side two gets things going with “Think Like a Machine, Not A Boy”, and the late 90s sound continues with the added bonus of mammoth synths and effect-laden acoustics. This record has the feel of a classic 70s prog rock album, but without all the pretentious storyline and drum solos. “Wolf Child” is a wonky little number carried by an up front drum beat and some Juno synths that move the song rather nicely. Mid-way through the song takes a decidedly 80s turn as it morphs momentarily into a Talk Talk b-side. This is a great mix of all the things The Flaming Lips do so well, which is make interesting pop music all the while never bending to convention. The album ends on “Assassin Beetle/The Dream Is Ending”, starting out as dreamy, incidental music racing along with distant percussion, background vocals, and moody keys before settling in on the more traditional and orchestral song structure Coyne and company perfected on The Soft Bulletin. It’s an epic piece of music, and one that far exceeds the source material from which this record was inspired.
I’m a Flaming Lips lifer. I won’t pretend to be objective in my view of these Oklahoma fearless freaks of nature. Everytime they’ve offered up new punch to drink I’ve gladly gulped and enjoyed every trip I’ve taken. They’ve done what they’ve wanted to do from the beginning. From starving on the road and playing dive bars in the 80s and early 90s, to becoming the Godfathers of alternative music, they’ve never strayed from the vision of their crumpled, gray-haired ringleader. They’ve “kept it real”, as it were. But this time around it seems that a so-so book turned into a so-so movie has woken something in these Oklahoma acid casualties. They’ve found more than just visceral, raw emotion. They’ve found a beating heart once again. Peace Sword could be the beginning of a new phase for The Flaming Lips. One lit by sunlight, not black light.
9.3 out of 10