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album review: k.g. by king gizzard and the lizard wizard

Let’s be honest here, this year has been a complete and utter throwaway. All that has kept us pressing on to wake up each morning and live out our eternal groundhog days has been the promise of a few fresh LPs to entertain our ears. In the midst of a bummer of a summer, our favorite daredevils from down under, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, gave us some hope to hang on to with their July 15th single release of “Honey.” As soon as the single dropped, my mindset changed from “my life sucks” to “my life sucks, BUT at least some new Gizz is on its way.” Even though the bar was basically on the floor for 2020, King Gizz flipped things around and served up one of their finest works this November, offering us their 16th studio album K.G. as well as a live album of crowd pleasers from a San Francisco show back in 2016 consisting mostly of tracks from Nonagon Infinity and I’m In Your Mind Fuzz. 

K.G. picks up what 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana laid down, this time not as an effort into experimentation, but as a sure bullseye hitting marks that only Gizz could hit. 

Backing up to 2017, Flying Microtonal Banana was the first of the five albums that the group would release that year and it holds its own as their boldest venture in what I consider the prime of their discography. This year was King Gizzard’s opus. I’m talking smash hit after smash hit after smash hit and no two albums even came close to being similar in content. What set Flying Microtonal Banana apart was the microtonal tuning capabilities that Stu Mackenzie’s custom 1967 Yamaha SVG800 Flying Samurai allowed. Legend has it that as soon as he got his gear all retro-fitted, Mackenzie gave his bandmates each a chunk of change so they too could go buck-wild on their instruments to achieve a sound most Euro-centric artists wouldn’t dare explore. Western based music generally sits on a twelve-tone equal temperament, but fortune favors the bold, so the band debuted their exploration into the world of microtonal tuning with this work and their efforts proved fruitful. Back for a sophomore stab at it, their latest work K.G. takes a deep dive into the ground work they’d already laid, but this time more thematic and more intentional within it’s direction and purpose. 

As this was their first album without former drummer and manager, Eric Moore, there was pressure on the product to hold its own beside their already stacked discography. The boys no doubt rose to the occasion and gave us a hero’s journey in just 10 tracks. Album opener “K.G.L.W” picks us up in a whirlwind and drops us into a half-time barren desert where things slink slowly, almost in a crawl, but in a way that’s coy and all-knowing. Next up, “Automation” shouts out some pseudo-“Altered Beast I” realness in the intro, but with a totally twisted middle-eastern spin on it when it fills out. One of the most interesting show pieces in the work without a doubt has to be “Intrasport.” This is the one I did not see coming, but thank god it came because wow, it goes off. Quite honestly as soon as I heard this for the first time, I saw myself making terribly exciting and half-baked decisions as this song plays in a post-rona world. It’s one of those stone cold killer type tracks that makes you feel invincibly sexy like you’re a Mortal Kombat character or Keanu Reeves. With all this heat preceding it, closing track “The Hungry Wolf of Fate” literally had no other option besides to go hard. A perfect candidate for a closer, this track stays super intense and tension filled, while still begging you to move your body. It’s distortion driven, but in the way a song should be distortion driven; bold when it needs to be, but not 100% in your face tasteful and right on the money. 

If I’m being honest, I haven’t been as into the more recent Gizz as I was when the bug first bit me with Sketches of Brunswick East and Gumboot Soup, but this album turned it all around. All in all, a really intelligent work showcasing not only the band’s growth within the world of alternate tuning, but the magnification of experimentation and overall creative brain power of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard.

Listen to K.G. here:

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