Review Summary: The now legendary Australian outfit returns from their recording hiatus with a funky, fresh, but not entirely fulfilling suite of new tracks. There are grooves for days and earworms abound but the epics are noticeably absent.
At this point, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard need no introduction. But upon the release of their 2019 album, Fishing For Fishies, one certainly begs for an explanation. “Is this that one crazy psychedelic metal band you won’t stop talking about ？ ” “Is this that drugged out stoner rock group your weed dealer won’t shut up about ？ ” Or maybe it was your philosophy TA ？ It doesn’t matter who’s been talking, word has been getting around. They headline their own festival. They can churn out 5 excellent albums within a single year. They can sell out 5,000 head venues these days. All without any major label backing them (in fact, they prefer it that way). At this point King Gizzard has nothing to prove to anyone.
Perhaps that is why their latest album sounds as confident as it does complacent. Make no mistake, this album is an enjoyable, groovy listen throughout, but to say that it delivers as a crushing, epic follow up to 2017’s whirlwind of releases simply wouldn’t be accurate. The boys from Melbourne aren’t melting any minds or weaving any epic tales on Fishing For Fishies, they’re just here to have a good time. And they succeed, for the most part, delivering the grooviest album of their career, if their least ambitious. While the songwriting on Fishing For Fishies is tighter than its ever been you can’t help getting the feeling that something may have been lost in the process. The frenetic motorkik beats of Nonagon. The seamless storytelling of Murder Of The Universe. The mind-melting mega-riffs of Mind Fuzz. All noticeably absent. Instead we are gifted a buoyant, bouncy, boogie-fest. A delightfully hooky lazy river of an album, shimmering under a dewy, radiating sun. As a longtime fan I’m hesitant to say that it’s a fair trade – but I can’t deny that it’s a load of fun.
The inviting opener sets the scene for a fun afternoon in the sun, characterized by sing-along lyrics, and plenty of bright hooks to put a smile on your face. Ambrose gives a great performance on “The Cruel Millennial,” reminding you that he too is a lead singer (just not King Gizzard’s). And everyone is in top form on “Boogieman Sam,” a true blues lick, and an earworm of a lick at that. Even at its sharpest, most blues-heavy moments the album has a decidedly relaxed vibe to it.
But for all of its catchiness and eager-to-boogie attitude the album seems to fall short compared to the rest of the band’s discography. When the beat of “This Thing” kicked in it never evolved into the multi-passage mega jam that the band’s previous releases conditioned me to expect. Acarine, the wildest cut on the record, is more an amalgamation of the band’s previous ideas than it is a long form Gizz jam in its own right. And the closing track “Cyboogie” sets the table for a delightfully weird romp through a blues-tinged cyber-dystopia that entertains, but ultimately disappoints in its lack of willingness to explore the ideas it sets before you. It’s a creative process quandary. You see King Gizzard is at their best when they latch onto these goofy ideas and allow them to spin (nearly) out of control. Jam. Explore. Explode. Refine. Repeat. Fishing For Fishes pretty much begins and ends stuck at the “Jam” stage of the process. As a result, the band is caught truncating their wacky ideas and in the case of some tracks, putting the stop to the fun before it really gets started. However, by taking more time with this release, exacting greater discipline, and adhering to tighter song structures, Fishing For Fishies is undoubtedly their most inviting and accessible album of their career. So much so that it was the first King Gizzard album that my wife picked up for herself, entirely on her own. Its certainly a more inviting starting point than the narrative heavy Murder Of The Universe or tongue-twisting Polygondwanaland.
You can pick up a number now-signature Gizz elements along the river: motorkik beats, zurna noodling, colorful synth flourishes, and a particularly generous helping of harmonica – but they never build up into something bigger and grander than a fun afternoon in the sun. And at the end of the day that’s all they boys from Victoria were looking to deliver on Fishing For Fishies. Don’t forget the sunshine filled romp that was Paper Mache Dream Balloon, itself a delightful diversion preceding the apocalyptic Nonagon Infinity.
Worry not, there is nothing amiss in Gizzverse – this is simply a picturesque lazy river of an album. A simple, lovely detour to drink in before touching down on Planet B. Chill out, smoke down, and enjoy the vibes.