Rock music certainly isn’t dead in America, but when comparing its status to that in other countries, one might get that impression. Australia, on the other hand, is a vernal pool teeming with life; the likes of Pond, Wolfmother, Courtney Barnett and Tame Impala show us where psychedelia and guitar-driven music is going, with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard joining their ranks. Beyond the goofy name is a seven-man outfit prolifically delivering albums that won’t leave you feeling underwhelmed.
11 full-length studio albums since 2012 is nothing to scoff at, but having only released one album in 2016, King Gizzard decided to go ape in 2017. On February 24, “Flying Microtonal Banana” was released, the first of a five-album plan. The eclectic and diverse sound is matched with lyrics that paint terrific images of struggles with rattlesnake attacks, bush rangers, anoxia and environmentalism as well as call out ISIS as a small fry compared to the threat of global warming.
The album is named after a microtonal guitar gifted to the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist, Stu Mackenzie. Microtones are the pitches between the notes of the traditional western music system and are popular across the Middle East and Asia. Every instrument on this album was either tuned or modified to hit those microtones. A few, like Stu’s zurna, a type of Eurasian flute previously featured on the band’s album “Nonagon Infinity,” didn’t need any changes.
Taking a break from its more mellow jams, the band’s June 23 release, “Murder of the Universe,” emphasizes its harder rock and noisy garage roots. In three acts, the album saws you in half with driven hooks relenting only to deliver narratives straight out of a pulp sci-fi/fantasy novel. The narrator struggles with a human-turned-beast, recounts the battle of the Lord of Lightning vs. the Balrog and is replaced by an android who just wants to puke and die. It’s very relatable music.
Making an homage to Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain,” Gizz surprise dropped “Sketches of Brunswick East” on August 18 in a collaboration with Mild High Club. The two groups got together during Gizzfest 2016, King Gizzard’s yearly festival, and decided sometime around then to send tracks and ideas back and forth until “Sketches” was born. This spooky jazz journey also features microtones with some Ethiopian scales on the track “The Book.” This album is a good break from the chugging garage rock that the band has been producing since “Nonagon Infinity” and has a much closer sound to the band’s 2015 releases — the progressive jazz album “Quarters” or the acoustic “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.”
Gizzfest 2017 has been announced, and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard will find itself performing with fellow Aussies ORB, a band that makes heavy metal stoner rock à la Black Sabbath; Leah Senior, the singer-songwriter who narrated most of “Murder of the Universe”; La Luz, an American surf garage band; and Kikiagaku Moyo, Japanese psychedelic masters. There will also be the bluesy garage rock side project of KGATLW member Ambrose Kenny-Smith, The Murlocs, performing. With this lineup announcement, King Gizz also confirmed that its last two albums are in the works, though mum’s the word on what sort of bonkers concepts the band will use to drive the writing of them.
Categories: Arts and Culture