Thursday, December 10, 2020

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - K.G. Album Review

To be a KGATLW fan is to be living in a state of constant anticipation. I imagine it to be quite hard (and strange even) to have an idea of the band in one’s mind that is fixed to perhaps only one album; they have to be seen as writers of multiple anthologies of what has been, is, and can be the future of rock. K.G. is an interesting release because it points me towards wondering what their sound has always been like, and where it can go.

The first few singles off of K.G. seemed to suggest a return to a primarily micro-tonal themed album, such as their previous album titled Flying Microtonal Banana (which also contained the subtitle, ‘volume 1’, suggesting that there could be more!) and its full release suggests otherwise, and that there is more. ‘Honey’ is a luscious love song that sounds like a lucid, richer version of ‘Her and I (Slow Jam)’ and was the first release to indicate (at least to die-hard FMB fans such as myself) that there is a possible volume 2 in the works. 

It was perhaps the release of ‘Some of Us’ that complicated things further by seeming to decisively steer away from a theory of a canonical mythology that the band crafts the narratives of their songs and albums about. This ‘canon’ is mostly theorized and generated by their fan base, but they contribute and acknowledge it while maintaining a strategic distance, which works in their favour and keeps listeners waiting for more. 

While the lyrics off of ‘Some of Us’ thematically follow the same crafting of a surreal post-environmental-collapse doomscape that the band is known for (such as in previous songs like ‘Melting’, ‘Planet B’, etc), this second single indicated a certain focus on sound than crafting narratives. Perhaps after albums such as Murder of The Universe, Polygondwanaland, and the releases in between, the band wanted to put out songs that return to fine tuning and thinking out loud about what a King Gizzard sound actually is. ‘Straws in The Wind’ seemed to answer this question. Sung by Ambrose Kenny Smith, the lyrics are wry, sardonic and there seemed to be a return to a sense of comical, goofy image that the band has upheld of itself for all these years. One looks forward to a crazy KGATLW music video with as much joy and anticipation as one waits for an album or song release.

This odd triad of singles, each with a certain slice of the KGATLW aesthetic was followed by the release of the album which I feel allows us a new entry point into appreciating their music. A friend of mine remarked that this album seems to be made for fans, and is not as radio friendly. This idea of the audience as a central focus is interesting as the growing fan base and interest in the band has consistently proliferated with their trademark style of making albums which are each focussed on different genres, and also their relentless flow of release upon release. 

What we have here then is a wider inclusion of new listeners, each having their own unique journey into the world of KGATLW. Are you a psych rock fan? A thrash metal fan? A jazz aficionado? Are synths more your thing? There’s something for everyone. Another point of note is naturally the question of compromise which they seem to never have to address because they’ve managed to make each album sound fresh and simultaneously adding to a prior conception of what their sound is, consistently. K.G. is special because it seems not to care for a direct expansion and inclusion of a potentially new set of listeners, but seems to be a moment of reflecting and returning to a set of experimentation and song writing that is quintessentially their own. For a band that makes music across genres, it is truly special that they’ve managed to create an album that reflects their own originality. 

K.G. is no cosmic saga, nor does it indicate any additions to the vast mythological saga of prior albums. This album is about them and their experiences as musicians (‘Oddlife’), philosophical musings rather than statements about inevitable apocalypse (‘Ontology’), and the possibility of existing outside of their own universe (‘Intrasport’/ ‘Don’t take it personally, this is not about you’). It still also contains songs that seem to be extensions of previous songs, namely, ‘Honey’, ‘Straws in the Wind’, and ‘Automation’.

I wonder how many fans feel that they are growing accustomed to knowing what to expect, and the sense of perpetually anticipation may be dying down for them, but for me, K.G. feels a lot richer and more worthy of its own status as a self-aware, and even self-proclaimed set of deep cuts from the band themselves.

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