King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard albums plus oddities – RANKED! – Part 1/2

Our beautiful boys in red

King Gizzard are the quintessential Aussie band. Formed in 2010, and releasing their first studio album in 2012, they’ve been running at breakneck speed and have not stopped for breath since. With 17 studio albums, 1 demo album, an EP collection album, a few EPs and countless live albums under their belt, they are truly a force to be reckoned with. As well as being one of the most prolific bands out there right now, they also host their festival, Gizzfest, and own their record label, Flightless Records. A few of their members also have side projects, namely the bluesy rock outfit The Murlocs and dreamy solo act Pipe-eye among others.

To commemorate the up and coming album Butterfly 3000, which has a mysterious lack of singles, I decided to write a mini-review of each King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album (and a few others in the mix too) and rank them. Of course, this list is completely subjective. I’m writing as someone who enjoys music, not someone who knows a lot about music. Just because an album is near the bottom of the list doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. I enjoy every one of these albums to some degree. That’s why they’re my favourite band. I also won’t be including the album Chunky Shrapnel on this list, as it contains mostly live recordings of songs from other albums. I’ll also be including Demos Vol. 1 + Vol. 2 as it contains studio-quality songs.

20. Infest the Rats’ Nest

The 15th in a long line of endless records Infest the Rats’ Nest delves into thrash metal. A genre I’m not too fond of, my only real experience with it being Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning. Infest the Rats’ Nest has many of the characteristics associated with thrash, namely the constant palm mute chugging, double kick-drum, and blistering guitar solos.

In comparison to the other albums on this list, Infest the Rats’ Nest is the heaviest so far. ‘There is No Planet B’ kicks off with a harsh environmental message that is graphically conveyed across the record. Personally, most songs blend into one another and don’t do much for me. For someone not initiated into the thrash metal sphere, the sound is harsh and unappealing, especially in ‘Organ Farmer’ and ‘Hell’. ‘Venusian’ 1 and 2 legitimately sound Metallica-esque, which would be a good thing if you like Metallica in the first place. This is not to say that there aren’t any diamonds in the rough. ‘Mars for the Rich’ follows the initial track, introducing a sweet riff in the chorus that sticks in the mind long after listening. ‘Perihelion’s’ graphic message describing “melting humans” and its incredibly catchy pre-chorus “peri-perihelion” makes it my favourite track on the album. Levi Roots will inevitably cover ‘Perihelion’, singing “reggae-reggaehelion” to promote a new sauce.

For fans of thrash metal, this LP might be worth its weight in salt. However, it’s not to my tastes. It has some fantastic songs, but as an overall piece, it deserves its place at the bottom of the pile.

19. Teenage Gizzard

This is an interesting release. Teenage Gizzard is technically not an album at all. It’s a collection of EPs and songs recorded in 2010 and 2011, well before the release of 12 Bar Bruise. Imagine this record as the incredibly skinny Steve Rogers; pre-Captain America. Still the same man, but without the rippling muscles or characteristic shield.

Teenage Gizzard has a garage surf rock feel to it. It’s not a style I can listen to often, but I can appreciate it for what it is and for what others would like it for. ‘Eddie Cousin’ is the first song that really resonates with me, it wouldn’t go amiss in a long drive in a convertible, perhaps across the beaches of Los Santos. Hard drums, repetitive riffs, heavily distorted guitars and constant “woo!”, “aaah!”, “aaaayoooo!” noises build-up to the backbone of Teenage Gizzard. The constant screeching is something Stu hasn’t been able to give up in live performances it seems. There are quite a few compilations of him deepthroating the mic and screaming at French people. Which is honestly acceptable behaviour. They probably deserved it. (“We here at Underlevelled don’t condone James’ egregious insensitivity. French people should probably make like a snail and escargot the fuck away, though” — Dave the Editor)

My main issue with this LP is that a lot of the songs blend into one another, at least for me. There are quite a few tracks that stand out, but after listening and thinking about the LP only a few jump out at me. One of those that is actually memorable is ‘Fried’, which has a lovely twang to it that feels reminiscent of the spaghetti western-styled rock that can be found within Eyes Like The Sky and 12 Bar Bruise. The final two songs do the incredible album art justice, delving further into the surf rock genre. ‘Life is Cool’ especially stands out as an incredibly fun, moshable track. Oddly enough it reminds me slightly of early System Of A Down in the quieter sections, which is definitely a good thing.

Teenage Gizzard, when compared to recent Gizzard records, really starts to show its age. The collection of songs is enjoyable, but they don’t flow like Modern Gizz does. This is for the enthusiast, the man who has to have everything. Or if you just plain love the roughness of 12 Bar Bruise, then this is essentially more of the same, if a little bit more dishevelled.

18. Willoughby’s Beach

This isn’t even an album, but it’s here because it’s an important part of Gizzard history. Willoughby’s Beach is King Gizzard’s only sizable EP. This is very similar to Teenage Gizzard, and yet it’s higher up on the list. Why? I simply prefer the tracklist. That and I’ve listened to this EP more, as it came out a long time ago, while Teenage Gizzard was only recently put together into a tangible bundle.

Punky. Loud. Heavily harmonica infused. These are a couple of words and statements that could describe the first track, ‘Danger $$$’ and frankly the rest of the EP. Ambrose’s excellent harmonica is something that is sadly missing from a lot of modern Gizz, but it’s used to great effect throughout this EP, as well as reverb and delay effects.

Let’s talk about the best song on the album now. With high energy chanting, rising guitar riffs and a kick-ass harmonica solo it can only be ‘Dead-beat.’ Imagine this song played live in an intimate 60 person venue, each person chanting along, the crowd looking like a confusing mass of flailing limbs as everyone dances like no one is watching. It would be a spectacle to behold. The atmosphere alone would be deafening. To contrast, ‘Dustbin Fletcher’ sounds like something straight out of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2. Strangely nostalgic for some reason, even though it’s a recent memory. Closing up we have the title track, shouting loud and proud. A fitting song for a loud EP.

Similar to Teenage Gizzard, this is a relic of a bygone era. Back in the days when King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard were a little known Aussie punk rock outfit. Even back then, they were producing some absolute classics like ‘Dead-beat,’ ‘Lunch meat’ and ‘Crookedile.’ Well worth the listen if you’re a fan of the punky stuff.

17. 12 Bar Bruise

The album that started it all, only preceded by EPs Willoughby’s Beach and Anglesea. As rough around the edges as you’d expect, 12 Bar Bruise lives up to the name by being punky and loud. ‘Elbow’ starts things off with plenty of reverb and shouty vocals, which King Gizzard keep going throughout the LP. A common theme in the albums on this list is innovation, as shown by the titular track, 12 Bar Bruise. Despite common recording conventions, the track is recorded on 7 separate iPhones. The result is echoey and memorable; quite frankly sounding better than it should.

The star of the show on this LP is ‘Sam Cherry’s Last Shot’, King Gizzard’s first foray into spoken word. In contrast with the punky echo chamber that the rest of the songs take place in, ‘Sam Cherry’s Last Shot’ has a spaghetti western vibe that sticks out like a sore thumb in a good way. Narrated by Broderick Smith, the harmonica keyboardist vocalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s dad, who would return in Eyes Like the Sky for a full 28 minutes of narrative bliss.

The use of vocal harmonies, unrelenting bass and a lovely harmonica solo makes ‘High Hopes Low’ another personal favourite. ‘Cutthroat Boogie’ has fantastically coarse vocals, but to the song’s detriment individual instruments are mixed to the left or right channel completely. This is something that listeners of The Beatles will be familiar with, the reason why listening with one earphone gets you half a song. The ending track, ‘Footy Footy’, is the most Aussie song I’ve ever heard. I’ve never wanted to have a beer with the boys and watch the football more, and I don’t even like football.

Overall, 12 Bar Bruise is unpolished and loud, but that gives it charm. It laid the foundations for Stu and the gang to violently genre hop for the next 8 years and beyond, and I’m eternally thankful. However, in comparison to the other albums, it just doesn’t hold up as well for me. I’m not a huge fan of the unpolished garage rock sound as others might be, but I can still appreciate that this is a good record.

16. Oddments

Oddments, the fourth studio album, is full of B-Sides and oddities. For an album this far down the list, it surprisingly has the best opening track out of the whole discography. ‘Alluda Majaka’ explodes onto the scene riding a terrified horse, being unabashedly weird with its instrumentation and relentless on the ears. What follows this insane rush is an almighty calm in the form ‘Stressin’’, and then some nice harmonica from ‘It’s Got Old’. Each song on the album has its own distinctive style, most of them distorted in their own special way. ‘Vegemite’ sounds like a fever dream with slightly wobbly vocals and instrumentation that doesn’t seem to be tuned quite right. ‘Work This Time’ is bizarrely the band’s most listened to song on Spotify, even though it’s quite unnoteworthy. Just in case you were asleep or not paying attention, ‘ABABCD’ violently shakes you for 30 seconds whether you like it or not. ‘Sleepwalker’ lulls you back into a deep sleep, displaying a dreamy tone not seen on the rest of the LP.

‘Hot Wax’, in my opinion, the second-best song on the album, safely repeats the same melody throughout, digging further and further into your skull until an earworm arrives and exercises squatters’ rights. ‘Hot Wax’s’ music video is wonderfully trippy, literally melting Stu and Ambrose’s faces as they sing their last. The last few songs on the album slowly wind down, leading with the sad ‘Crying’ and then continuing with the rainy ‘Homeless Man in Adidas’. Much like ‘ABABCD’, the final song and title track ‘Oddments’ kicks into gear as quickly as it shuts down.

A good way to look at this album is that it summarises King Gizzard’s tendency to genre hop to a high degree. ‘Alluda Majaka’ has an Indian influence, which is shown in ‘Flying Microtonal Banana.’ In contrast, ‘Hot Wax’ has garage and psychedelic rock influences, which are shown in 12 Bar Bruise and Float Along – Fill Your Lungs respectively. One of the last King Gizzard albums that you listen to, but certainly not bad at all. This is the “On Avery Island” to Gumboot Soup’sIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea“.

15. Paper Mache Dream Balloon

As is usual with King Gizzard albums, Paper Mache Dream Balloon has a gimmick. Done away with are any electronic gubbins that might have been used. Say hello to an entirely acoustic album. This is the 7th album in the Gizzard anthology, taking a slightly unorthodox approach with instrumentation. Frontman Stu is credited for playing a whopping 11 instruments on this record in contrast to the usual second drummer and manager Eric’s crediting of precisely “nothing.” I wonder what Eric did to deserve this.

Initial track ‘Sense’ begins with smooth double bass and distinctive woodwind, establishing the mood for the most sedate Gizzard album so far. One thing to notice about this LP is that while the songs sound happy and glib, the lyrics tell an entirely different story. In ‘Bone’, the line “When my gun is shot, I’m just a pile of bones” subverts the expectations set by the jolly, happy go lucky tone. ‘Trapdoor’ kicks the creepiness into high gear, giving an almost spooky air. This is the second instance of King Gizzard’s patented “repeat the same word and call it a song” technique, first exhibited in I’m In Your Mind Fuzz with ‘Cellophane’, and later repeated with Flying Microtonal Banana’s ‘Rattlesnake’. As a 7-piece band (technically 6-piece on this record, naughty Eric), King Gizzard deliver on a rich soundscape, despite being limited in their instrumentation. The harmonica comes in strong on ‘Bitter Boogie’ followed by the blistering in comparison ‘N.G.R.I (Bloodstain.)’ Sounds like someone’s going to wear out those high piano notes, seriously. ‘Paper Mache’ ends the record with a mash-up of all the previous tracks but with a twist.

Paper Mache Dream Balloon is one of the more unique Gizzard albums. It constantly betrays its tone with the lyrics, adding an extra layer for those who look for it. An overall enjoyable experience, but floats along a little too much and only has a few strong tracks. Still highly recommended, if not only for ‘Trapdoor’ and its music video.

14. Float Along – Fill Your Lungs

If there was ever a traditional King Gizzard album, this is it. The 3rd LP in the infinite gauntlet that is the Gizzardology, this time the boys bless our ears with some straight-up psychedelic rock.

‘Head On/Pill’ explodes out the gate with a box full of sitars and guitars and just doesn’t stop. Not for a whole 16 minutes. This Adderall fuelled track blends the length of a short film with an unending technicolour soundscape, strong-arming the listener into submission with sound alone. Strong usage of delay across the entire LP gives each song a dreamlike quality, strengthening the ‘Day Tripper’ era Beatles vibes that can be felt from ‘Mystery Jack’, due to the lack of such effects.  As an occasional main vocalist, Ambrose brings his raspy high pitch voice to the track ‘Let Me Mend The Past’, reminding me of an old favourite band of mine, “Sheer Mag”. The final track is full of dreamlike drones and twanging sitars.

Float Along – Fill Your Lungs begins the same way it ends, with great psychedelic rock. There’s not as much to say about this album, as the ideas used aren’t the most out-there. However, it’s still fantastic to listen to with standout tracks like ‘Mystery Jack’, ‘Let Me Mend The Past’ and ‘Head On/Pill’. Very much recommended for fans of “Cream”, “Radio Moscow”, and other psychedelic rock bands.

13. Gumboot Soup

2017 was well and truly the year of King Gizzard. Following on from 2016’s incredible Nonagon Infinity featured later in this list, they released a whopping 5 albums in one year. Gumboot Soup is the 5th and final album in the 2017 quintology and 13th overall. Most akin to Oddments, there is no real theme, again. Instead, borrowed ideas and one-off concepts. There are no prime cuts of Gizzard steak to be found here, only strangely flavourful offcuts from unexpected places.

Gumbout Soup is a bit more subdued than Oddments. Not as crazy, and yet it works quite well. Kicking off with the narratively driven ‘Beginner’s Luck’, we hear the story of a first-time gambler’s first time at a casino, becoming increasingly confident until everything falls apart. Accompanied by a solid score, it’s one of the better songs on this LP.

What follows is essentially just a load of good, unremarkable Gizzard. In amongst the unremarkable, is ‘The Great Chain of Being.’ The heaviest track on the album, it relentlessly grabs your attention by the balls and doesn’t let go until the conclusion. ‘Muddy Waters’ is also an absolute banger, having a lovely rhythmic drumline and repetitive riff that somehow avoids being boring. The next remarkable track is the last, ‘The Wheel.’ It has jazzy smooth vocals, the kind you’d sit and wobble your head at. I’ve really struggled to write this review. So much so that I abandoned writing it for 9 months. Whoops.

Gumboot Soup is certainly an oddity. Its tone and genre shifts all over the place, from Stoner Metal to highly rhythmic I don’t even know what and back in the space of five minutes. I’d consider this a double-edged sword. King Gizzard aren’t a laser-focused band to begin with, but this album’s scope is wide, not deep. For a richer listening experience, a different album would probably be best. I’d recommend this, however, to anyone who wants to see the breadth of what our favourite boys down under can do. It’s an excellent showcase of their immeasurable talent.

12. Demos Vol 1. and Vol 2.

Demos is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a bunch of demos. However, these demos are either fresh never before seen tracks that didn’t quite make it into an album or even into a properly finished state, or alternate versions of existing songs. Some of the demos of the already existing tracks are actually better than the original, as I’ll discuss later. I’ll attack this in chunks. First talking about notable existing songs, then never-before-seen songs.

The pre-existing songs are a real mixed bag. The demo for ‘Dirt’ is absolutely incredible. Instead of being a nice little acoustic bop, it now feels like a bedtime story mixed with a little bit of dream rock. The difference is night and day. ‘There Is No Planet B (Demo)’ somehow made the song even heavier, I didn’t know that was possible. ‘The Spider and Me (Demo)’ sounds a little synthy and adds a little bit of glockenspiel action, which is definitely appreciated. ‘Danger $$$ (Demo)’ is also somehow even rougher around the edges. There are a few demos of pre-existing songs that are almost the same without vocals, they’re not too exciting but they’re also neat to have. The most out-there pre-existing song is definitely ‘Tezeta (Demo).’ A simple change, removing the elevator music style and replacing it with synths and effects along with acoustic plucked chords from a guitar.

‘Music To Kill Bad People To’ has definite Murder of The Universe vibes with haunting synths and grumbling effects. ‘Demo 79’ sounds like it belongs in a Starsky and Hutch soundtrack, while ‘Music to Eat Bananas To’ is good for eating bananas to. You can really tell how much King Gizzard like to experiment with different themes from this record alone. Especially when ’99 TET’ somehow has African vibes of all things.

A great curiosity that should be listened to by all fans, whether they’ve only just discovered King Gizzard or if you’re a grizzled veteran. As a die-hard fan, I immensely enjoyed this record. Tracks like ‘Dirt’ which are even better than the original, and ‘Music To Eat Bananas To’ which are just neat bring the whole thing together as a really lovely package. Having a mixture of new songs and old but remixed makes this bundle an fresh experience that I definitely recommend.

11. Fishing for Fishies

Released after the agonising King Gizzard drought of 2018, Fishing for Fishies was the breath of fresh air I’d been hoping for. The 14th album so far, Fishing for Fishies brings back the fantastical whimsy and creativity that I’d missed. First teased with the release of the synthy robotathon ‘Cyboogie’, leading us all to believe we’d be getting a futuristic synth album. Lo and behold, King Gizzard pulled a classic bait and switch with the release of the music video for the title track, ‘Fishing for Fishies.’ An almost innocent-sounding song, Ambrose’s silly voice in the chorus matching the message portrayed by the lyrics. This, in turn, revealed that the rest of the LP would be bluesy.

This expectation is emboldened by ‘Boogieman Sam’ with blaring harmonica and a chorus that’s impossible not to nod your head to. ‘The Bird Song’ sports a vocal style not seen since ‘God is in the Rhythm’ from Quarters!, a call back I greatly appreciate. The further into album you go, the stronger the blues influence is felt. ‘Plastic Boogie’, ‘Real’s not Real’ and ‘This Thing’ fly by. Each one better than the last. ‘Acarine’ is a different beast entirely, however. Still bluesy, but with electronic elements creeping in, building up to the incredible finale that is ‘Cyboogie.’ Stu looks coked out of his mind in the music video, possibly suggesting that he threw Ambrose’s ever-present harmonica in the trash and forced him to shove Stu inside of synthesiser. The boogie doesn’t stop from track’s beginning to end. Whether that’s a good thing is up to you to decide.

Fishing for Fishies is a fantastic return to form for King Gizzard after a long-deserved rest. Very accessible for the new King Gizzard listener, innovating without overstepping its bounds and becoming strange.

Be sure to check back soon (hopefully, before the 11th of June if I get my finger out) to see the rest of the reviews and rankings! Thanks for reading


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