King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
King Gizzard haven’t let the pandemic slow them down. If anything, the Gizzard freight train has gone and accelerated in 2020, with latest release K.G. a worthwhile bookend.
You’d think after their ridiculous five-album stretch in 2017 the band may be content to rest on their laurels, but this year has seen them release six live albums, a concert film, a making-of doco for last year’s Infest The Rats’ Nest LP, and a huge compilation of demos. The band are now recording all their live shows, which may see a drip feed of official live recordings for years to come.
A lot of the proceeds from sales have gone to charity. King Gizzard is mutating into its own mini-economy, an indie twist on the rock juggernauts of yesteryear. It’s an unprecedented feat for a band their age, especially one who has self-managed themselves under their own record label.
All of this would be moot if the music were not up to snuff, but the Gizzard have never let the quality of their music, nor their experimental spirit, wane. After sixteen albums, they now have such a deep well to draw upon that they can pick and choose styles from periods past, while also trying their hand at whatever new ideas strike their fancy.
K.G. may not be much of a detour from what we have heard from King Gizzard before (the spiciest of which was last year’s thrash metal effort Infest the Rat’s Nest), but it is one of their best front-to-back albums to date. Its style draws from 2017’s Microtonal Banana – largely garage rock but played on microtonal instruments, whose quarter-step tones give it an Arabic feel.
Opening instrumental K.L.G.W introduces an Eastern-tinged riff that the band returns to later, before we dive into Automation. This track, along with single Some of Us, is a driving Eastern rock number with driving percussion and vocal intonations that bring Tool to mind. If there’s a sore point on the record it’s that these tracks, along with the relatively basic garage rock instrumental Ontology, aren’t exactly standouts in the King Gizzard oeuvre. They have good riffs and keep a pace, but they don’t hit as hard as earlier efforts.
Thankfully Gizzard have filled out this LP with more than just driving rockers, and it’s on these poppier tracks that they shine. Straws in the Wind is a brilliant acoustic power ballad featuring the immediately recognisable warbling vocals of Ambrose Kenny-Smith. Honey is another soft rock triumph as King Gizzard get romantic for a change with syrupy vocals and a memorable microtonal vocal/guitar melody.
But the best is reserved for Intrasport. This track needs to be heard to be believed, an unholy mesh of riffage with dance rhythms, bubbling synths and whispery, sexy vocals. It may have been an attempt at early 2000s R&B, but it ends up sounding like the chirpier cousin of NIN’s Closer after two tabs of lysergic. Some may object to the Gizzard taking such an overtly pop tone, but this track is so fun and memorable that it is bound to become a new fan favourite. It initiates an excellent second half run to this LP, transitioning to the mysterious and ever-building Oddlife, then onto Honey, and closing with a slab of fuzzed-out doom metal in the epic The Hungry Wolf of Fate.
Overall, this is a great album from the Gizz. While not their most experimental, it’s their most tight since 2016’s Nonagon Infinity. It’s meticulously composed and sequenced, and features some soon-to-be Gizzard classics. What more can you want?