Release Date: 20th November 2020
"Now-familiar “Gizzard-isms” are back with an added sheen, songs and styles interweave with a co-dependency akin to more genre-consistent records like Nonagon Infinity."
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s discography is one of the hardest to break into of any recent band. It is rare for them to release less than two records a year, peaking in 2017 with five. Each record leaps from one idea to the next: a blues record recorded with iPhones; a psych album that loops endlessly; a thrash metal album about environmentalism.
K.G., their first venture without second drummer Eric Moore manages to refine these sounds on one project without sounding disorienting. But in doing so, it eases away from the rampant experimentalism that makes the band appealing.
I don’t believe King Gizzard have exhausted themselves yet. The Australian mavericks tried their hand at a summative project once before. The final entry in the five-album-run, Gumboot Soup was largely comprised of off-cuts from its predecessors and in my opinion, it showed. Two years later they bounced back with Fishing For Fishies and Infest The Rat’s Nest, retaining a degree of flair.
K.G. is an improvement on Gumboot Soup. Now-familiar “Gizzard-isms” are back with an added sheen, songs and styles interweave with a co-dependency akin to more genre-consistent records like Nonagon Infinity. Despite this, however, it could have used a stronger opening. ‘K.G.L.W.’ and ‘Automation’ could be slipped somewhere in the middle of Polygondwanaland and wouldn’t sound out of place. Microtonal melodies lack the charm they once had on records like Flying Microtonal Banana, as does the familiar-sounding drumbeat.
Thankfully, the pace picks up on ‘Minimum Brain Size’. Heavy yet upbeat, its enticing blues licks work their magic underneath Stu Mackenzie’s weirdly catchy vocal passages. A hypnotic sound world builds and builds until it glides seamlessly into ‘Straws In The Wind’, an initially folk-tinged track that soon becomes more effects-laden and intense. From here, K.G. settles into its groove.
That is, until ‘Intrasport’, a personal highlight and a genuinely unexpected moment. The track features an unholy trinity of quasi-acid bass, microtonal melodies and clavinet accompaniment. Imagine Stevie Wonder’s Superstition remixed by the Underworld in ancient Egypt. It’s extremely vulgar, but it’s these kinds of left-field decisions that made me fall in love with King Gizzard in the first place.
Déjà vu returns during the album’s final moments. Metal closer ‘The Hungry Wolf Of Fate’ is entertainingly pompous, clearly, no punches have been pulled and the result is an outrageously loud if poorly-mixed, bang to see off the record. Much of its impact, however, is undercut by the fact that it’s been done before, by the band themselves no less. An entire record of thrash metal was released only last year, where heavier styles of guitar music are interrogated and recontextualised, rather than showcased and discarded.
Therein lies my issue with K.G. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard do their multitude of styles justice when given the space of a full release. The album is full of fun and innovative moments. Perhaps from another act, they’d be more welcome. But from this particular band, I was hoping for more risk and more reward.
Words by Charlie Ridler.
27th November 2020.