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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - 'K.G.' Album Review


9. Honey

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are no strangers to experimentation, having explored everything from Polyrhythmic Progressive Rock, to narrative-driven Spoken Word Metal, to Easy-Listening Psychedelic Jazz to Microtonal Desert Rock and much more, but their latest album ‘K.G.’ still manages to check off a number of firsts for the band.

It’s the first official sequel album for the band, serving as a follow-up to their previous microtonal record ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’, containing many of the same quarter-tone middle-eastern inflections they had employed on the aforementioned album. It is also the first album from the band to be recorded in isolation from each other. The group have a long history of writing and recording with live jams, so this change of pace marks a very different process for the group and the results have varying levels of success.

The record opens up with instrumental track ‘K.G.L.W’, where the wind sample from ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ kicks off the album with a sonic link to the previous album. It’s a slow burn of a track, focusing more on setting the tone and atmosphere for the rest of the record through layers of rich acoustic instrumentation, before smoothly transitioning into ‘Automation’. ‘Automation’ is a more stereotypical King Gizz song, featuring all the staple guitar sounds and vocal whoops you come to expect from them. While it is by no means a weak song, it’s hard not to be reminded of all the band’s stronger attempts at this sound in the past (‘Doom City’ and ‘Sleep Drifter’ come to mind). Thankfully ‘Minimum Brain Size’ brings things up a notch, with its hypnotic drum pattern and winding lead guitar evoking sounds of both ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ and ‘Polygondwanaland’ in equal measure, resulting in a very strong track that continues to grow and evolve throughout its runtime.

At this point, we reach one of two very divisive songs on the record. ‘Straws In The Wind’ came out with a hilarious DIY music video from the band that definitely strengthened its appeal, but as a song it has never really gelled with me completely. I think the song itself is great, featuring almost medieval sounding guitar leads that wouldn’t sound out of place in a high-fantasy RPG, but it’s let down by the band’s experimentation in recording. The guitars sound as though they have been recorded through an iPhone, which could’ve added an interesting texture to the song, but they’re so prominent in the mix that you can hear every grating, grainy detail. There are times in the track where the vocals are completely incomprehensible because they’re drowned out by these over-compressed noisy guitars. It’s a shame because I think with a better quality recording and mix this could have been one of my favourite songs from the album.

‘Some Of Us’ follows and features vocals following the melody of an acid-soaked guitar line that leans hard on the microtones. Whereas the band usually just use microtones as inflections and flavouring on their songs, here the microtones form an integral part of the melody, giving it quite a harsh sound that isn’t for everyone. Personally I like that the band are trying new things with microtones and whilst it isn’t my favourite, I appreciate the effort and it marks a nice change of pace. The fantastic end jam in this track leads seamlessly into my favourite song of the record ‘Ontology’. Armed with a driving rhythm reminiscent of previous effort ‘Open Water’, alongside a thick wall of sound comprised of horns, guitars, drums, harmonica and whatever else the band could find, the track grips you and refuses to let go. Listening to the song makes me think of a exhilarating horseback chase through the Arabian Desert, with some very strong film soundtrack vibes on display here.

‘Intrasport’ follows and marks yet another first for the band, their first attempt at a straight-up dance track. This song is almost definitely a result of the lockdown-induced recording process, as it was written and recorded almost exclusively by guitarist/vocalist Joey Walker, which gives it a strong identity that definitely stands out amongst the pack, but to a mixed response from fans. I really enjoy this song for what it is, a shot in the dark at trying something completely left-field. The band aren’t going to turn exclusively dance-oriented any time soon, but it’s good to hear what that reality would sound like and in my opinion, it’s pretty groovy. Another seamless transition morphs this track into ‘Oddlife’, which brings with it a more typical sound for the band, but one that is unfortunately a lot less gripping. The layers of instrumentation here are lush and thick, but the problem is there isn’t much to hook in you. Every instrument seems to be playing something completely different, which sounds great on paper, but results in a meandering song that never really sticks.

Lead single ‘Honey’ marks the beginning of the home stretch to the finish, utilising acoustic microtonal rhythms and melodies to create a sweet, catchy track that brings back the laid-back sounds of ‘Paper Mache Dream Balloon’, but with a Kraftwerk-esque driving beat that gives the song a great sense of momentum throughout. ‘Honey’ seems to benefit the most from the home recording method on this album, as it weaves through different sections with rich, percussive instrumentation and synthesised sounds blasting in and out of the mix, constantly keeping the listener on their toes. Album closer ‘The Hungry Wolf Of Fate’ marks a severe tonal shift to Doom Metal that seemed genius on first listen, but every subsequent listen has made the track feel more out of place than intentionally jarring. The overly piercing guitars seem to be another victim of the home recording process, coming across less heavy and more overly aggressive. It is still a strong track, albeit one with issues that hold it back from being great.

‘K.G.’ is anything but a safe record. It constantly takes risks and while not all of them pay off, you have to respect a band that is still willing to push boundaries even when there doesn't appear to be many left to push. My favourite aspect of this album is the fact that despite having so many disparate ideas, sounds and genres, the majority of it flows together so well. This is mostly in part due to the transitional sections between tracks, which work fantastically on the whole. To make such a wide range of songs sound cohesive for the most part is nothing short of a miracle. There are exceptions to the rule and whilst I don’t love everything here, I have to respect the band for always trying new things, especially when it results in some really great songs.

Review - Spencer Rixon


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