Friday, November 15, 2019
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The Complete Guide to King Gizzard

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are prolific, experimental and unique.

The Melbourne based seven-piece have, since their inception in 2010, released 13 albums and two EPs. Five of which were released throughout 2017. The band has released at least one album per year since 2011. That is certainly no easy feat. Which is why the band can be forgiven for not offering us an album in 2018.

As things stand, it is just past the half way mark of 2018, and the boys at King Gizzard have not detailed any news of a new album or release. Hence why it may be a perfect time as ever to take a step back and digest King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and all of their releases so far.

This is my complete guide to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard for newbies and for seasoned listeners.

Where to start

Getting into a new band with a large back catalogue can be daunting, especially when the band in question has such a diverse, genre fluctuating assortment of albums. So, knowing where to start is essential.

So, where should you start? Or, conversely for those already familiar with King Gizzard, what have you perhaps missed? King Gizzard do not stick to one genre. If they do, it is not for very long. With that being said, however, there are common themes, repeated riffs, grooves, and motifs that are seemingly ever present within their music. This helps mesh songs together, and even, on occasions, entire albums together.

The band does have a few albums that have, for the most part, focuses on one style or genre, so, if you are a fan of jazz, Sketches of Brunswick East, is a perfect place to start. If, by chance, you like microtonal music akin to sounds of the Mediterranean, give Flying Microtonal Banana a listen. If prog-rock is your thing, then I recommend Polygondwanaland. You like psychedelic folk? Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.

If you are still lost, here is my ‘where-to-start’ list of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard releases:

1. Nonagon Infinity (26 April 2016)

Nonagon Infinity perhaps perfectly exemplifies what King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are all about. The album sits almost perfectly in the middle of their releases so far and was their only release of 2016. Nonagon Infinity, musically, combines almost everything that the band had been doing in previous albums, and, similarly, almost everything that they have since gone on to do. It is a pumping, fast, psychedelic, endless groove, drawing in a plentiful amount of influences ranging from punk to jazz, prog-rock to garage-surf rock.

A common trend present within King Gizzard’s releases are themes and motifs, and Nonagon Infinity does not shy away from that fact. The album is designed, and written, in a way that songs flow seamlessly into one another. Riffs and grooves, lyrics and lyrical concepts are repeated from song to song, making the whole 42-minute album feel like one massive standalone song. Unique, experimental, typical King Gizzard. That is not all though. The album is designed so that the last song on the album flows seamlessly into the first song – hence Nonagon Infinity. The album can be played over and over and over for infinity.

 2. I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (31 October 2014)

I would be lying if it wasn’t difficult choosing between Nonagon Infinity and I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (IIYMF) for King Gizzard’s perfect starter album. Both albums, in their own unique ways, are quintessential King Gizzard. Perhaps the only thing that sets Nonagon Infinity apart from IIYMF was the presence of a noteworthy theme.

IIYMF represents, essentially, what King Gizzard had been doing in their early years. The album is a bit more surfy, a bit more garage-y, a bit more laid back, and much more psych-rock than Nonagon Infinity. Certainly, IIYMF is a snapshot of what you will hear on previous albums such as Float Along – Fill Your Lungs and 12 Bar Bruise, as well as serving as a foreshadowing of their later releases, in particular Quarters! and Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.

3. Quarters! (1 May 2015)

Quarters! is a solid third album to listen to on your King Gizzard journey. It experiments with longer song structures, slower tempos, and chiller vibes. Crowd favourite, The River, is the first song on the four-track album and showcases how capable and diverse Stu Mackenzie (King Gizzard’s primary songwriter) is at song writing. The song is a 10-minute, 10-second (as is every song on the album) jam that is up there with the top acid rock and psychedelic fusion tracks you can think of.

Conceptually, the album has four songs that run at exactly at 10-minutes and 10-seconds. This is because one side of a full-length LP typically runs at 20 minutes and 20 seconds, and so to cut that into quarters, a song would have to last 10-minutes, 10-seconds. Hence, Quarters!

4. Float Along – Fill Your Lungs (27 September 2013)

Float Along – Fill Your Lungs is where King Gizzard began experimenting heavily with different sounds and longer song structures. At this point they had perfected their garage-surf sound as heard on 12 Bar Bruise, and in their next coming releases (I’m In Your Mind and Quarters!) they would continue to delve into new sounds. What makes this album unique is the emphasis and use of the sitar. This type of unique investigation into more traditional/folk music was visited, in a different way, in Flying Microtonal Banana – the next recommended album on my list.

5. Flying Microtonal Banana (24 February 2017)

For Flying Microtonal Banana, the band had a range of microtonal instruments specially made for them. The album is recorded entirely in quarter tone tuning – the octave is divided logarithmically (into 24 equal distanced quarter tones). Basically, King Gizzard was influenced by more traditional music – primarily Turkish microtonal music. The album blends King Gizzard’s traditional sound, with microtonal instruments. Incorporating both folk music and King Gizzard’s typical garage rock sound, hence why it is recommended after Float Along, and before the next album – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.

6. Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (13 November 2015)

Paper Mâché Dream Balloon is quite possibly King Gizzard’s most obscure release. The album is almost completely void of any electric instruments, something that is a trademark to King Gizzard’s sound. The album came about because Mackenzie was becoming tiresome of electric guitar music and concept albums. Ironically, Paper Mâché Dream Balloon’s concept eventually found its place as a folk inspired, entirely acoustic album. The songs that feature on the album are, for the most part, still very typical King Gizzard, with the sounds on Paper Mâché very reminiscent of those found on I’m In Your Mind Fuzz. Basically, if I’m In Your Mind Fuzz was played acoustically, it would sound similar to Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.

7. Sketches of Brunswick East (18 August 2017)

For the writing and recording process of Sketches, King Gizzard teamed up with Alexander Brettin, A.K.A Mild High Club. Brettin is a former Chicago jazz student, who has gone on to release two albums under the moniker Mild High Club. Both Sketches and Mild High Club’s albums have a distinct jazz influence, but what sets Sketches apart is the way the collaborating musicians were able to fuse Mild High Club’s jazz sensibilities, and King Gizzard’s distinct sound, found on similar albums such as Quarters!.

Sketches is a unique album, to say the least, borrowing its name from Miles Davis’ 1960 LP Sketches of Spain, and lyrically covering changes within the neighbourhood in which King Gizzard, and their record label Flightless, reside – East Brunswick, Melbourne.

 8. Gumboot Soup (31 December 2017)

Gumboot Soup is, by all accounts, an amalgamation of everything King Gizzard released in 2017, and even earlier. It is King Gizzard’s latest release, the fifth of five albums released in 2017, and features songs akin to those that feature on Flying Microtonal Banana, Sketches of Brunswick East, and soon to be introduced to you, Polygondwanaland and Murder of the Universe. The latter mentioned albums are two very ambitious albums released by King Gizzard, hence why listening to Gumboot Soup before them is recommended. The album serves as a nice recap of what you would have already heard from King Gizzard, and what you will soon hear.

9. Polygondwanaland (17 November 2017)

Polygondwanaland is, perhaps, the purest representation of Stu Mackenzie’s song writing ability, as well as how talented the band is as a whole. The motif within Polygondwanaland is use of polyrhythmic techniques – the simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms. The album is able to utilize, excellently, the fact that there are two drummers in King Gizzard, as well as three guitarists. The album does slightly stray away from what King Gizzard are traditionally known for, as the band goes for a more prog-rock heavy sound. Although, Polygondwanaland is still distinctly King Gizzard, as they do often return to the foundation, if you will, of what makes King Gizzard – with songs reminiscent of what can be heard on Flying Microtonal Banana (with use of microtonal instruments).

10. Murder of the Universe (23 June 2017)

Perhaps King Gizzard’s most ambitious album in terms of lyrical delivery, with the album incorporating spoken word arrangement. Murder of the Universe tells a three-chaptered story, fusing narrative delivery through text-to-speech, as well as Leah Senior providing her voice as a female voice narrator. Musically, the album is somewhat heavy metal inspired, straying away from their signature garage rock sound, in same vein as Polygondwanaland. It is, however, very reminiscent of Nonagon Infinity, following and borrowing similar grooves and motifs that can be heard on the album that was released a year prior.

The spoken word aspect can become tiresome, but, it does grow on you. Hence, the album comes in at number 10 – if you have liked what you have heard so far of King Gizzard, you will definitely enjoy Murder of the Universe.

11. 12 Bar Bruise (7 September 2012)

Taking a break from King Gizzard’s recent releases, here are some of the bands earliest ones. King Gizzard’s first ever album, 12 Bar Bruise, showcases explosive garage-surf rock. It served as a major starting point that eventually led to albums such as I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, and certainly, Nonagon Infinity. Stu Mackenzie’s trademark scream can already be heard, and King Gizzard’s solid song structures and writing also shine through in abundance.

12. Willoughby’s Beach EP (21 October 2011)

Willoughby’s Beach EP is a much more raw, explosive form of garage-surf rock, akin to what is heard on 12 Bar Bruise. It is King Gizzard’s second ever release, with the ever so obscure Anglesea EP being their first. What King Gizzard did on 12 Bar Bruise owes itself to Willoughby’s, with this EP forming essentially what King Gizzard would go onto perfect in 12 Bar Bruise and their later releases.

13. Oddments (7 March 2014)

A perfect recap of what King Gizzard has to offer. Reminiscent of sounds heard in Willoughby’s Beach, 12 Bar Bruise, Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, and Quarters!, and for this reason, Oddments finds itself 13th on the list. A collection of odds and ends songs that the boys in King Gizzard could not find a place for in their releases in 2014 and earlier. One of the few albums that does not have an overall theme – unless you consider the fact that all songs are odds and ends to be a theme.

14. Eyes Like the Sky (22 February 2013)

Eyes Like the Sky was King Gizzard’s first venture into a concept album. The album fuses King Gizzard’s trademark garage-surf rock with spaghetti western guitar riffage, and a spoken word story about outlaws, child soldiers, Native Americans and gun fights, set in the American frontier. The story within the music was written and narrated by Broderick Smith, father of King Gizzard’s multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith.

A standalone album, and very much unlike any other album released by King Gizzard, except for Murder of the Universe, which shares the spoken-word aspect. Definitely an album that needs to be paid attention to, to fully enjoy and appreciate the story behind the music.

15. Anglesea EP (2011)

Anglesea has become somewhat of a concealed release from the King Gizzard boys. It is, after all, their first ever release. You cannot find it associated with any of King Gizzard’s sites or even mentioned for that matter. So, out of respect of King Gizzard, this should be the last album you listen to by them. It isn’t bad, but it is raw, showcasing their early, surf sound. With only four tracks, the EP can be found on YouTube.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are perhaps one of Australia’s most captivating band. The Melbourne band have a strong cult following, with an entire mythos centred around the concept of a Gizzverse – something I did not even touch on in this article.

Briefly, the Gizzverse is a fan theory that suggests every (or most) King Gizzard album is connected in a central universe, telling one entire story, due to common lyrical themes, repeated riffs and grooves. Take a listen to their albums, and see what you think.

*Feature image by Jamie Wdziekonski