Where To Start With | King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
This may sound audacious, but Australian seven-piece King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are the most productive band on the planet. Though not a household name, they were set to play this year’s All Together Now festival in Portlaw, County Waterford. Musically, they hold the same weight as bands from bygone eras while remaining very much in the 21st century.
So what makes them special? For starters, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have released a whopping 15 studio albums since forming in 2010. From 12 Bar Bruise in 2012, all the way up to last year’s insane Infest The Rats Nest. What’s more, on January 10 of this year they unleashed three live albums on Bandcamp. Each recorded at a different venue in 2019—Paris, Brussels, and Adelaide—with all profits going to Animals Australia and Wildlife Victoria.
For the uninitiated, here’s an overview of five of their records, each offering a unique insight into King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and how the themes and genres of their albums differ.
12 Bar Bruise (2012)
This is ground zero for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. A testament to how the band hit the ground running with their debut, highlighting their potential development. The power of three guitarists, harmonica, theremin, and a war machine of percussion, drive a well-structured album.
At times, it’s straight millennial rock (‘Bloody Ripper’), but elsewhere they flex their creative muscles (‘High Hopes Low’). There is experimentation here, however. Allegedly the title track was recorded on 4 strategically-placed iPhones, with lead vocalist Stu Mackenzie singing straight into one. There is a lo-fi quality throughout, a rough and raw sound, adding to the album’s charm. 12 Bar Bruise is a playground of catchy hooks, fuzzy guitar solos (‘Elbow’), and intelligent structures (‘Muckraker’). This is a sonic primer from a band who were already becoming a cult act.
I’m in Your Mind Fuzz (2014)
In 2014, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard were firing on all cylinders. When it came to the release of I’m in Your Mind Fuzz, they threw absolutely everything into their melting pot of influences. For the most part, it’s psychedelic rock, with sharp, short, blistering tracks. The power of two drummers, Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh, provides a thunderous backbone throughout.
There is the odd experimental jam (‘Hot Water’), but from the starting block of ‘I’m In Your Mind’, the pace is relentless. The lo-fi sound of ‘Am I In Heaven?’ comes through like a field recording before morphing into a wall of wild fuzz. ‘Satan Speeds Up’ is a festival of wah-wah guitar straight from the late ’60s, with flute sounds for that folky edge. I’m in Your Mind Fuzz is authentic garage rock with a psychedelic overtone.
Nonagon Infinity (2016)
Widely considered the group’s apex so far, this is the sound of ’60s Pink Floyd spilling from a gutsy garage band. The album explodes into life, with the furious ‘Robot Stop’ setting the scene. Again the genre varies a little from the previous release. It’s a funk-driven, guitar-drenched beast, with no room to draw breath.
As a whole, the album blends psych, prog, and jazz, with a sprinkle of metal. The album is an infinite loop of music, acting as a continuous cycle when played back to back. With the release of Nonagon Infinity, the critics and the wider music world had no other choice but to accept this work as a milestone in modern music.
Flying Microtonal Banana (2017)
The first of five albums released in 2017, Flying Microtonal Banana continued in the same ballsy direction as Nonagon Infinity. However, after the initial blast of ‘Rattlesnake’, things take a more relaxed stride, a gentler vibe without the aggressive playing. Thematically, there is a very prevalent ecological message running through the album. Tracks such as the dual-drumming ‘Melting’ and the harmony- soaked ‘Open Water’ project that message before the album explores other areas.
Of course, there is a shift melodically here as the band begin experimenting further with microtuning. This complex process enabled the band to venture into new musical areas unexplored in their previous work. Right away, it created a more exotic sound, particularly prevalent in the instrumental title track. There is a hint of early Deep Purple in ‘Anoxia’, but the standout song, ‘Nuclear Fusion’, is incomparable to anything else this century.
Fishing For Fishies (2019)
In 2019, after a year without an album, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard released their most accessible record to date. Fishing For Fishies is a mellow piece of work. It shimmers with acoustic instruments and feelgood melodies, bordering stoner rock and the blues, shuffling with a deep-rooted, addictive boogie. There is more of the environmentally-conscious narrative, but it’s not overwhelming. It provides a modern context for old foundations, though at its core Fishing For Fishies sounds uncomplicated.
The songwriting is also more clinical, with depth and emotion fully meshed into every space. Main man Stu Mackenzie stated that it is, “strangely one of the hardest records that we’ve ever made”, and the work they put in has yielded enormous dividends. The beautiful, piano-driven ‘The Bird Song’ is a treasure, and ‘Real’s Not Real’ is a strangely-conceived wonder. However, there is still some of that tongue-in-cheek attitude creating a pleasant atmosphere throughout.