A somewhat sweet 16
With a name like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, a certain modicum of zaniness is more than expected. On latest album K.G., the Australian psych rock septet certainly delivers. King Gizzard’s 16th studio release showcases the penchant for creative experimentation fans have come to love and includes its fair share of individual bangers–though the overall experience isn’t quite as fresh this time around.
When it comes to concept albums, K.G. knows what it’s about. King Gizzard kicks off the record with a short, vividly psychedelic intro that sets the tone for the songs to come. The introductory track, pithily named “K.G.L.W.,” transitions seamlessly into upbeat banger “Automation.” While “Automation” distinguishes itself with a high-energy guitar hook and complex syncopated drumbeat, it simultaneously lays the groundwork for a recurring song formula throughout the album. If listeners enjoy “Automation,” they’ll love K.G. in all its hazy psychedelic glory. If not, they’ll find the remainder of the album all too familiar.
“Automation” shifts smoothly into “Minimum Brain Size,” a structurally and thematically similar track that trades its predecessor’s rock bombast for dynamic-forward momentum and hypnotic harmonies. Both songs are undeniable standouts, due in large part to their similarities. Strangely enough, their clear resemblance makes “Automation” and “Minimum Brain Size” even more individually striking, underlining King Gizzard’s talent for composing creatively distinct tracks from the same vein of thought.
That said, K.G.’s thematic unity cuts both ways. The album flows together seamlessly–without keeping an eye on the track list, many listeners won’t realize when one song ends and another begins. For casual listeners, K.G. is better enjoyed in discrete chunks. Conversely, longtime fans of acid rock and King Gizzard will appreciate K.G. as a cohesive 40-minute journey through moderately innovative waters.
“Straws In The Wind” and “Some of Us” both continue and modify the K.G. template. Despite its nearly six-minute length, “Straws in the Wind” un-complicates the formula with stripped-back drums and bass, diverting attention to delicate, intricate guitar riffs and a harmonica accompaniment. Next up, “Some of Us” escalates the album’s flow once again with fast-paced fuzz and Middle Eastern-sounding refrains derived from unknown instruments. By this point, listeners will have realized that the mysterious Middle Eastern melodies throughout K.G. aren’t contained to just a few songs–they’re a defining characteristic of the album. Nearly every song incorporates a similar vibe, which is one of the reasons the albums runs together so cohesively yet indeterminately.
Nevertheless, K.G. contains a few other notable outliers. “Ontology,” for instance, is the wacky, avant-garde zenith of the odyssean fever dream. It’s a disconcerting, freakily discordant passage through murky waters that’s heightened further by crashing choruses and a nimble guitar outro. “Ontology” isn’t for everyone, but it’s a certifiably trippy track that more than lives up to its metaphysical name. And later, “Intrasport” adds levity to the mix via catchy, up-tempo, disco-infused funk.
With all said and done, K.G. is undeniably a solid album. King Gizzard’s latest effort is a weird, diverse, sonically distinct testament to the timelessness of psychedelic rock as a genre. K.G. is far from perfect, however. Though the album includes standouts like “Minimum Brain Size,” “Automation” and “Intrasport,” many other songs aren’t distinct enough to leave lasting individual impressions. For hardcore fans, K.G. is a gloriously cohesive 40-minute acid trip that heavily incorporates a distinct Middle Eastern aesthetic. For everyone else, it’s a dense and intense psych rock case study best absorbed in moderated portions.