In the last few years, there's been a rumbling from Australia, by way of future Prog Rock pioneers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. This band is interesting, and early albums such “Quarters,” and “Nonagon Infinity” helped set the stage for what would be a hard task to pull off. Sure, it’s not as difficult to keep up with the pace they set early on (eight albums in five years), but when they announced early last year that they planned to unveil five albums in one calendar year, many people were skeptical. As one myself, it not only seemed highly unlikely, but it also brought into my thinking the notion of how much the quality of each album wouldn’t be up to snuff. Even Future, whose released multiple albums in a year more than once, can’t quite keep up the quality on various releases.
That brings us to the start of 2017. For those wondering, this won’t be an in depth critique of all of the albums, but more of a general glossing over of the features and sounds King Gizzard demonstrated on these releases. In February, the seven piece featuring Stu Mackenzie, Ambrose Kenny Smith, Joey Walker, Cook Craig, Lucas Skinner, Michael Cavanagh, and Eric Moore unveiled the first of five, titled “Flying Microtonal Banana,” and well, it sounded like previous releases, but one song in particular stuck out, helped in no short way to the utterly weird and fun video. The track, simply called “Rattlesnake,” explored the more psych prog rock fans had become accustomed to. To note, this music isn’t for everyone, and often times takes a more challenged music fan to fully appreciate the weirdness transparent in everything King Gizzard does. My girlfriend for one, is not a fan, but you can’t win them all. This was followed up a few months later in June by what’s essentially one long jam session strewn through 21 tracks.That record, “Murder of the Universe” is as fun of a record to listen to as the name indicates. It’s a wild ride for sure, but the cohesiveness of the entire album makes it easy to not only listen all the way through, but the length of the tracks help tremendously. It’s a dense album to be exposed to, but clocking in at under fifty minutes it’s able to not overwhelm you like a traditional 21 song album, like many rappers and producers have become accustomed to. For the record, this type of album, where the septet has one solid idea that mushrooms into various areas, sees the band at the height of chaotic brilliance. I find the albums that have individual songs not as easy listening, but when there’s no break in the action, they’re a much more enjoyable band as a whole.
Many themes are presented throughout “Murder,” having featured everything from a storyline about a robot in a new digital world as his conscience comes full circle in his ability to control, to a story about discovering a monstrous “Altered Beast.” It’s weird as fuck, but challenging and thoughtful art sometimes is. Then in August of last year, the band once again changed course drastically with their third record titled “Sketches of Brunswick,” which heavily features a much slower, free jazz fusion sound permeating the album. It’s a gorgeously textured album that makes it hard to imagine it being the same band, but even in this role, they showcase another layer of what they’re capable of. Recorded and written alongside the “Mild High Club,” this album is perfect for sunny days near the ocean, with not a care in the world. It’s certainly their least intense album, but it’s beautiful and relaxed, unforced in every possible way. People may not enjoy this band, but you simply can't say that they’re one dimensional. King Gizzard seems pushed to defy the notions that the public has set for them, and as a music lover, you can’t ask anything more of a band willing to test and evolve with relative ease.
Forth coming down the line finds King Gizzard going back to the idea of a long track in the forms of a jam of sorts with “Polygondawanaland,” The shortest of the five, running at 43 minutes covering ten tracks, this record finds the band finding a mellow center in between the sounds of “Murder” and “Sketches.” The opening song “Crumbling Castle,” is a mythological heightened song is the visions portrayed, but from their the band expounds on their technique. Featuring meandering time signatures and ancient notions, it’s another solid listen for anyone who’s a fan of the band. Finally though, we come to the bands fifth and final album of the year. Released only right before the end of the year, “”Gumboot Soup,” is way more accessible in sections, but it’s also more in tune with pretty sounding folk rock with an element of strange mixed into the contents on others. Now I must say, only two songs show up on Spotify for some reason, but they bring everything back into what falls under the wide influence of capabilities the band has shown to possess. That being said, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, even if you’re not a fan, accomplished something astonishing and successful on their five album year. Nearly all of the releases are solid and thoughtful, and while they all sound like the same band, you’re never bored and unfazed when you check them out. They literally have a different mood on each album, and when a band can grow that much and still not sound like complete shit in the process, I believe their experiment was a success. What 2018 holds for the band is unclear, but these releases certainly make for a much deserved break, or at the very least, super interesting shows that could be focused on one particular album or a wild diverse mix of sounds. Well done King Gizzard, you’ve just shown yourself to be one of, if not the hardest working band in music right now. Congrats to the band, and thank you for reading!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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