Review Summary: A lo-fi garage rock band doing a California surf party gig, with lots of drugs. If it sound both wired and awesome, that’s exactly what King Gizzard’s debut is all about.
By the time I’m writing this review, Australia’s freaky musical circus King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard had already become something of a cult phenomenon in the musical underground. Hailing from its lively psychedelic rock scene, the Victoria-based seven headed musical beast quickly gained a reputation for their highly energetic musical performances, their prolific output and the willingness to abandon any traditional rules that most bands follow. Not anchoring at one genre they can blend the spacey aura 60’s psychedelic rock with the raw energy punk or do Beach Boys influenced surf rock/baroque pop with a rough-ended lo-fi sound. They jump into any musical genre or influence, they release an album whenever they want and neither the band, neither the listener ever loses the most important aspect of their music: Lighthearted, pure fun.
While they haven’t reached Tame Impala’s level of mainstream acceptance (yet), King Gizzard certainly craved out an audience for their wild and unpredictable music and that journey pretty much started with 2012’s 12 Bar Bruise. Self-recorded by the band themselves, the album pretty much a continuation and celebration of early garage rock days, with short, nitro-fueled tracks, filled with roaring power chords, groovy, jumpy hooks, singable choruses and an unpolished yet layered DIY aesthetic which puts a big focus on distorted guitar effects, overdubbed vocals. With a runtime of only 34 minutes, the album pretty much comes and goes quick, yet still has a lasting impact.
The pulsating tempo and Stu Mackenzie’s shouting exchange with the rest of the group (“Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey”) on the opening “Elbow” which ends with a bizarre yet lovable fuzz effect for a guitar solo, pretty much sets up the playful, trippy vibe of the record. The spastic rhythm and flow of this track is also present on other songs like “High Hopes Low” or the anthemic closer “Footy Footy” which injects more adrenalin into the listener than a thousand Red Bulls. While the effective simplicity is one of the main strengths of the record, King Gizzard already showcases their knack for smarter songwriting at places like the well-timed tempo changes and transitions of “Muckraker”.
Of course the experimental side of the band is also largely present with a clear sonic diversity among many individual tracks. The super lo-fi weirdness of the title track (achieved by being recorded with four IPhones placed in the room) is contrasted with the bombastic blues-like swagger of “Garage Liddiard” and “Uh Oh, I Called Mum” completed with harmonica solos. And we have the band’s nod toward Ennio Morricone and spaghetti western with “Sam Cherry's Last Shot” a concept on which they would later dedicate a whole album of.
While not as inventive, ambitious or progressive like their later discography, 12 Bar Bruise is an enjoyable debut for King Gizzard on which they already feature the signatures on which they would later build upon. Normality I would say that I hope for even better and more expansive work, but we already know that’s where the band headed after this.