Review Summary: King Gizzard and the Lizard Jizzard.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, a fourteen-limbed monolith born from the slums of Melbourne’s northern suburbs, are an absolute anomaly. The disheveled septet have been blazing a trail of DIY glory since the release of 12 Bar Bruise
in late 2012; the manic surf-influenced garage-rock that characterized the album translated into a raucous live show, sweeping them across the country in a cyclone of critical acclaim. Eyes like the Sky
, a spaghetti western inspired oddball, came just five months after their debut. Here the sprawling, husky narration of The Dingoes’ Broderick Smith (father to Gizzard’s harmonica player Ambrose) took precedent over vocalist Stu Mackenzie’s unpredictable yelps, providing a unique spin to an intriguing – if somewhat forgettable – sophomore effort. Fast forward to the tail end of 2013 and we arrive at Float Along – Fill Your Lungs
, King Gizzard’s third full length record in a mere twelve months.
While Eyes like the Sky
left many critics scratching their balding heads, any doubts regarding Gizzard’s outrageous prolificacy were promptly quelled with the release of “Head On/Pill”. It’s a single that stands testament to the band’s unorthodox approach: a sixteen-minute foot-stomper that writhes through psychedelic and krautrock territory before settling in a truly distinct space of its own. The song opens with a riff reminiscent of Feathers
-era Dead Meadow before dissolving into a rabid, NEU!-esque jam smattered with runaway delay and buzzing sitar. A driving drum n’ bass groove builds the foundation for some truly visceral noises; there’s enough woozy vibrato and pedal oscillation here to make Spiritualized proud. Yet it’d be reductive of me to label this song as a “jam”, for there is circularity to its structure that indicates something far more intelligent.
While “Head On/Pill” forms the centerpiece of Float Along – Fill Your Lungs
– “30 Past 7” and the eponymous track follow in the same psychedelic vain – there’s enough flavours here to keep everyone amused. Both “I Am Not a Man Unless I Have a Woman” and “Let Me Mend the Past” feature Ambrose at the vocal helm; his (dare I say it) sensual wailing steers the band towards groove-based blues, with lashings of heavy-handed production ensuring things stay left of center. “Pop In My Step” recalls the saccharine sunshine pop of early Beatles, while the chicken-picking twangs of “God Is Calling Me Back Home” reside somewhere in the realms of acid-country. “Mystery Jack” is perhaps the only major pitfall on the record; for a band as forward-thinking as Gizzard, revisiting the Western trope of their previous album seems like uninspired laziness rather than an endearing nod to the past.
In an age where clinical management and calculated strategizing is the norm, it is refreshing to see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard doing things on their own terms. Float Along – Fill Your Lungs
is both a demonstration and an exploration of the band’s democratic songwriting process; it’s a venerable mosaic of different personalities, styles and influences that – while at times lacking in execution– represents the beginning of an exciting journey. Whether they continue their prolific, genre-hopping escapades or diverge towards a more traditional, time-consuming approach remains to be seen. Given their success so far, however, I'm comforted knowing the decision lies solely in their hands.