In 2017, Australian psychedelic prog-rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard added the award for ‘hardest working band in the world’ to their ‘best band name’ award by releasing FIVE studio albums. The most impressive part about this was that they all contained different themes, concepts and sounds; something bands struggle to do over the course of decades let alone 12 months. But what’s the best of the five? Well, in celebration of their latest album Fishing For Fishies, I’ve decided to rank their 2017 efforts here.
5. Sketches of Brunswick East – Released August 17th 2017
The album that came slap bang in the middle of the King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard run, this collaborative effort with Mild High Club is far from a bad album, so don’t let the fact it comes last fool you. It takes a far more stripped-back, relaxed approach to their other releases and opts for jazzy influences with a tint of progressive material. It was so refreshing and intriguing to see the band go in this kind of direction and with the help of Mild High Club, they pieced together a slick project that is, above all else, utterly listenable. The guitar licks are groovy while some of the synths and keys are sheer magic, particularly on bops like Countdown and Dusk To Dawn On Lygon Street.
4. Gumboot Soup – Released December 31st 2017
Never in doubt. The fifth and final album of the year long experiment came out on New Year’s Eve as a farewell for now by the band as they went off for a well deserved break. Gumboot Soup was a polarising listen as it travelled down avenues of more psych-pop sounds while still clinging onto classic flavours of progressive rock and acid hits. It is an acquired tasting soup, but one brimming with passion and innovation that can be truly admired. The sweet and cherished pop sound of Beginner’s Luck is mixed into the same pot as the evil and terrifying routes of The Great Chain of Being, but both sound great.
3. Murder Of The Universe – Released June 23rd 2017
Well who saw this one coming? Murder Of The Universe is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most diverse and eccentric concept piece of King Gizzard’s career; here’s a brief overview of the album’s theme. So it’s split into three acts: Act One is titled The Tale of The Altered Beast and looks at the idea of temptation in the form of a human/beast hybrid, hungry for power and the knowledge of being ‘altered’. Succumbing to the beasts ways, the human in question becomes merged with The Altered Beast, but the cost of this power is a loss of identity; resulting in the death of the beast via utter insanity. Stay with me here.
Act Two is called The Lord of Lightning vs Balrog and, predictably, focuses on a great battle between these two behemoth creatures. It is a metaphorical war of light against darkness, and one which is only created by the excessive use of force from the Lord of Lightning who in fact created Balrog with his finger of smite. Balrog caused havoc to the mortals of the town and the Lord of Lightning fought Balrog to end this suffering; he wins and leaves the town to spare the townspeople anymore trauma.
The final Act, Han-Tyumi & The Murder Of The Universe, focuses on a cyborg who comes to life in the digital world and strangely strives for the two things a cyborg can never do: vomit and die. After creating a character (the “Soy-Protein Munt Machine”) with the purpose of having it command to the cyborg and vomit, Han-Tyumi is forced to merge with the machine as it rejects him. This causes an override and loss of control, something which inevitably causes an explosion and, here’s the REALLY weird part, engulfs and thus murders the universe.
There’s the concept. As for the music, it slaps when it has no right to, so that helps too.
2. Polygondwanaland – Released November 17th 2017
King Gizzard’s relationship with their fans has always been somewhat remarkable to witness, but they really took it to the next level with Polygondwanaland. Releasing the whole thing for free and even uploading the master tapes online for open use, the band showed generosity that wasn’t really necessary given how much they were rewarding fans with their endless work ethic throughout the year. The music itself felt like a true focus on making brilliantly catchy melodies and piecing together the best pieces of previous music; with the ten minute epic of an opener Crumbling Castle serving as one of the best ever King Giz songs. As well as this there was the pulsing anthem Desert Dunes Welcome Weary Feet and the funky flowing Horology so as track lists go, this is right up there with the best work they’ve done.
1. Flying Microtonal Banana – Released February 24th 2017
As concepts and soundscape structures go, basing an entire album on the exploration of using instruments specifically modified for microtonal tuning is probably as absurd as it comes; but King Gizzard’s Flying Microtonal Banana album is a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive venture into said waters. It was the first instalment of this five albums in one year experiment and one that I see to be the undisputed best, boasting some of the band’s best songs to date in the form of Nuclear Fusion, the quirky Billabong Valley and the obscenely catchy opener Rattlesnake. Artistically and professionally speaking, it cannot be understated how difficult it truly is to make an album recorded in quarter tone tuning, but King Giz make it sound so effortless it defies logic; it is the work of a masterful band who won’t be truly appreciated enough until it’s too late, sadly.