On Black Friday (aka Record Store Day) this past post-Thanksgiving, The Flaming Lips sent a very strong, positive and ballsy statement to the writer of a famous book who came out recently as extremely homophobic, this after the band had already committed to creating soundtrack music for the movie based on his story. The new Peace Sword EP features a song used in the movie Enders Game and other music inspired by it conceptually. More on the music in a moment.
Beyond the music being really good, the thing that is just so right bout this release is that in the run off grooves of the actual discs, on each side the band included messages directed to the writer. One side says: "Hey Orson Card ,You Are Wrong" and on the flip side it reads "Gay People Are Cool." According to an article from The Wire, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne didn't even tell the band members he was planning this action, but its clearly very cool with them given that other band members expressed severe displeasure learning about the writer's negative stance on Gays and Gay marriage. Again, do read the backstory at this link to The Wire.
All of this is much appreciated by this writer and Flaming Lips fan who happens to be Gay. So, thank you Wayne, Steven and the rest of the band; we appreciate your support!
I picked up a copy of Peace Sword on Record Store Day and am very pleased with it. The trippy cover art is really quite beautiful, with a glossy almost laminated-style finish inside and out -- the package even includes a spiffy matching psychedelic lyric sheet insert (so old school -- gotta love it!). The only thing missing is colored vinyl but The Lips have you covered on that front with another new release I'll discuss in a bit.
So how is the music? Really nice! While it is not quite a step backwards from the current sound on The Terror nor a step backwards, Peace Sword is more of a sideways glance both directions, bearing themes that are at once immediately melodic. I do suspect this music will be more appealing to fans of the band who came on board between The Soft Bulletin (1999) and At War With The Mystics (2005) than some of the current music which is more challenging, dark and inward. My favorite tracks thus far are the title track "Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)" and "Think Like a Machine, Not a Boy." There is some music here that sounds like the great grandchild of very early pre-Dark Side of the Moon-era Pink Floyd. Overall the EP strikes a balance between the edgy/dark-but-beautiful sound of the newest official album (again, The Terror) and their more commercially minded material from the turn of the new Millennium.
The black vinyl pressing is dark and quiet. While my copy was not quite perfectly centered, it isn't terrible and doesn't seem to make any significant deterioration of the sound which chugs along a bit on the distorted and glitchy side to begin with; it sounds full bodied where it needs to be. That said, I'm guessing this was probably a digital recording to begin with so... it is what it is! The accompanying download gives you a free set of 256 kbps MP3s are fine for mobile listening.
In the realm of colored vinyl, Flaming Lips teamed up with Aussie space rockers Tame Impala for a split EP made available initially only at select concerts the bands did together recently (and in a limited run after the shows, online). Titled Peace and Paranoia, the EP is pressed on bruised fleshtone-colored vinyl (really! I read that was what the artist who pressed them was going for!). The quiet, thick, probably 180-gram 12-inch EP spins at 45 RPM and presents two songs by each band -- covering each others tunes. I'm already a fan of the Lips so Tame Impala really gets the benefit on this one as I really like their song "Elephant" which the Lips cover gleefully. I will be picking up their albums soon. And that, my friends is the purpose of a split EP -- cross pollinating fans in a true spirit of community.
You can still find the Peace Sword EP at many record stores and online at Amazon. You may have to look harder (and spend a bit more) on eBay for the now quite collectible split EP, Peace and Paranoia. Its worth it, especially if you get a copy that is autographed by both bands (as was mine purchased at the Halloween show here in San Francisco!).
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com.