Review Summary: This is the King Gizzard album we've all been waiting for: the synthesis of their decade long experimentation - complete with yet another genre defying stylistic shift.
After over ten years and twenty albums, after emerging from sweaty basements to festival headliner status, what does King Gizzard have left to prove?
There’s a freedom in that. The liberation of a strong foundation and a fanbase ready to appreciate just about any curveball you throw at them. A point which few self-produced indie bands reach: and yet here we are. With Omnium Gatherum we see King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard at their most free. Their most inventive. Their most accomplished. Perhaps their most indulgent: but hell, at this point our boys from Melbourne have earned it.
Omnium Gatherum is the King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard album we’ve all been waiting for. Not because it answers the call of some unmet need. Nor does it offer extensions or conclusions to their Gizzverse canon. But it represents this band at their creative apex. Prior to Omnium Gatherum, each King Gizzard album had the character of an unhinged experiment – but now the band has pulled back the curtain, and in the thrilling 18 minute opener ‘The Dripping Tap’ they have proudly announced that those madcap experiments were each deliberate *lessons.* Lessons leading to this moment.
About halfway through the album’s opener I knew that this was the definitive culmination of all of their prior works. When ‘The Dripping Tap’ evolved from a Float Along inspired garage jam into a Butterfly-&-Fishies informed bluesy neo-psych bliss fest, I knew the band had truly arrived: at the conclusive final destination that nobody on this twisting and turning Road Train of pumped-out releases was expecting. It’s cunning synthesis of crushing psychedelia, breezy indie pop, pulse pounding metal, and serotonin-dipped grooves simply shouldn’t work as well as it does. And yet all of these disparate elements exist here in harmony: complimenting one another while achieving a real sense of cohesion in spite of the wild stylistic shifts that occur within the album’s mammoth two hour runtime.
A good contrast to Omnium Gatherum is 2017’s Gumboot Soup: a fine album, and a deliberate end-cap to that year’s 5 album run that put the band on the map. But it isn’t a classic: it was home to many great grooves but it’s haphazard tonal shifts divided their genre-crossing sound rather than uniting it, leading to a release that felt like a collection of B-sides more than a real album with it’s own identity.
Not so, here. Omnium Gatherum’s greatest achievement isn’t its length, its number of addictive grooves, or ample shredditude – but its cohesion. You can hear all of the lessons King Gizzard have learned over the years coalesce and come together into a glorious whole on this beast of an album. The slickly layered vocals & synths of Butterfly 3000 give the Nonagon-influenced motorkik beats a feeling of polish and richness that weren’t found in earlier releases. The unhinged eastern-tinged psychedelic stylings of Float Along and Oddments are given urgency and purpose by the tight, crunching shredding that feels pulled right from Infest The Rats Nest. And the band’s signature long form jams are now broken up by some of the slickest, tightest pop tunes ever to come out of Melbourne.
Just that alone would be enough. But King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard never rest on their laurels. Instead, they stretched their creative muscles even further, into yet another unexplored genre: Hip Hop. Yes, this monster of an album ventures into true Hip Hop experimentation several times throughout its runtime. From Kepler 22-b’s wickedly tight rhythms, to Sadie Sorceress’ plunderphonics foundations and genuinely banging rapped verses, the transition is as surprising as it is effortless. Who taught these psych rock nerds how to spit bars? How to spit bars so WELL? Much like the band’s detours into Jazz and Metal, this stylistic shift towards Hip Hop works brilliantly in spite of itself.
This is what it’s like to see a band in active evolution, folks. When sounds on a new album aren’t simple callbacks to prior efforts, but serve as deliberate(ly mis-matching) tools to bridge the gaps between and towards new sounds. That’s where the magic happens, and why so many of the best albums of the past 30 years have been genre chameleons – from Blood Sugar Sex Magik to The Soft Bulletin – variety is the mother of innovation. And the ability to find growth, rather than mere novelty, in merging two (or even three) genres at once is the father of an audiophile’s bliss.
So what happens when this approach is applied to a band that shifts gears from psych, to jazz, to punk, to metal, to hip hop seemingly overnight?
Something magnificent, that’s what.