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

They’ve actually gone and done it, the bastards have actually released Butterfly 3000 before I was finished with this article. Incredible. Anyway, we’re back with another 10 rankings and reviews. Nothing but incredible albums from here on out folks. Also, a quick reminder that these are just opinions, and I’m not a music reviewer or anything like that. Just a guy who likes to listen to King Gizzard.

10. Sketches of Brunswick East

Sketches of Brunswick East is King Gizzard’s first and only collaboration album, the 11th King Gizzard album and the middle point in their 2017 album bonanza. Collaborating with fellow Aussies Mild High Club, this record has a mix of their influences and is oftentimes referred to as elevator music or jazz fusion. Mild High Club are known for their jazzy albums Timeline and Skiptracing, while King Gizzard are generally known for being oriented towards psychedelic rock but as we all know they love a bit of genre-hopping. The marrying of these two bands produced a formidable hybrid, like two unique robots with their own strengths and weaknesses combining into a super-ultra-mega-robot more powerful than the sum of its parts that both illustrates the power of friendship and is easily marketed towards fans of both (and children and nerds). If regular King Gizzard was white bread, then Sketches is brown. Brown’s savoury, white’s the treat. Jokes on you, I love both.

In comparison to other King Gizzard albums, the instrumentation is completely different. Woodwinds, glockenspiels, piano and light percussion replace the standard band set up. This is alongside various effects and sound effects like birds chirping. This works really well to set up a more chilled atmosphere throughout the record. The first song ‘Sketches of Brunswick East I’ sets up a leitmotif that is referenced throughout the LP, setting up a sense of continuity between tracks. ‘Countdown’ is the first track with vocals and establishes the soft rock theming that is maintained throughout. There are numerous tracks on Sketches that are without vocals; I felt that they helped the album to flow in a more enjoyable way.

Han Tyumi the cyborg makes a cheeky little appearance from Murder of the Universe in ‘Tezeta’, while King Gizzard revives their favourite pastime of repeating the song title over and over. Little nods like this are part of the reason I enjoy King Gizzard so much, their records are always so layered that on repeat listens there are always new things to discover. Glockenspiel heavy ‘Spider and Me’ continues this repeating habit, whilst also being fun and catchy. Police sirens add an interesting element to ‘The Book,’ where the vocals have been slightly robotised making them slightly sinister. The final vocal track ‘I can be your silhouette’ is even more chilled out than the rest of the album and leads to ‘Sketches of Brunswick East III’ which continues to reference the initial leitmotif until it fades out.

Overall, Sketches of Brunswick East is an incredibly enjoyable album if you’re in the mood for it. It’s very chilled out, it has a few repetitive moments you can zone out to in ‘Tezeta’ and ‘Spider and me’ and has interesting ideas throughout. However, if you’re looking for something a bit heavier to sink your teeth into, this one might not be for you.

9. L.W.

L.W. is the long-awaited (four months?? That’s an eternity in Gizz-time!) third volume in King Gizzard’s microtonal adventure. The 17th and the most recent album as of writing, (Editor’s note, James is slow), fans knew what to expect with this one. Funky sounds, strange time signatures, off the wall instrumentation. Slotting together nicely into a double pack with K.G. You could consider these two LPs as two sides of the same coin.

For the uninitiated, a tone is classified as your general notes on the chromatic scale A through G. Semitones are the notes between these, so, for example, A sharp or D flat. This is usually the limit on a standard western guitar and combinations of these make up the music that we listen to regularly. Microtones are the notes between semitones. They sound dissonant and wrong when heard as if whatever you’re playing is out of tune. You can access these by adding additional frets to a guitar, having a purposefully out of tune guitar or having a fretless guitar and just playing where the microtones are. Having all these extra notes to play with gives the record extra depth and manoeuvrability.

L.W. is certainly stronger in the first half, opening with ‘If Not Now, Then When?’ which has a wonderful animated music video and clear disco influences. Some have been wondering since the second drummer left the band how things will change. If ‘Supreme Ascendancy’ is anything to go by, things will be just fine. Gizz’s drummer Michael Cavanagh (who has just announced a Solo project, Cavs) plays like his life depends on it in a mixture of 5/4 and 4/4 time signatures while the rest of the team tries to keep up. Definitely the best track on the LP by far.

Some popular reviewers were disappointed by L.W at release, stating it didn’t take enough risks. I can see what they meant, ‘Static Electricity’ feeling a bit sedate and ‘East-West Link’ is honestly a little bit too repetitive. There were a few lost opportunities to really test the limits of microtonality, like the final track on Flying Microtonal Banana. Tracks like ‘O.N.E’ and ‘Pleura’, prove that while they’re not that microtonally out-there, they’re still fantastic songs. It’s sometimes important to put expectations aside and listen with an open mind.

The final track, ‘K.G.L.W,’ is the sister track to K.G’s opener, transformed from a light pleasant woodwind melodic piece to cultish drone metal. It invokes imagery of spooky skeletons carrying The Great Chain of Being out of the depths of hell, courtesy of the teaser released by the official Gizz Youtube channel a few days before release.

L.W. is fairly similar in scope to K.G. and Flying Microtonal Banana, if you like one of them you’ll like the rest. Tracks like ‘Supreme Ascendancy,’ ‘Pleura’ and ‘Ataraxia’ make this one unmissable for those who enjoy microtonal music.

8. Polygondwanaland

Polygondwanaland was released in the tail end of 2017, 4th in the mad dash to 5 albums in one year and the 12th album overall. As an act of good grace to bootleggers everywhere, King Gizz uploaded the master tapes for free allowing people to press their own vinyl, print their own CDs, even create their own tapes or 8-tracks if they wanted to. An official pressing by Flightless Records was eventually announced and released. Some extremely creative people even created an NES ROM with much of the band’s discography adapted into 8-bit form.

Ever experimenting, King Gizzard outdid themselves with their most prog-rock feeling album yet. Polgondwanaland begins with the masterpiece ‘Crumbling Castle,’ over 10 minutes of bliss that just keeps on coming with lyrics that are fun to sing and instrumental sections that prevent the song from getting stale. The titular track ‘Polygondwanaland’ uses a staccato guitar to compliment the vocal melody during the chorus. Leah Senior, the narrator in Murder of the Universe, makes a welcome return in ‘The Castle in the Air.’ Nods like this make fans go wild, hinting at the existence of an interconnected Gizzard world, or Gizzverse. Fan theories closely examine lyrics and cover art leaving no stone unturned, some pointing out that the castle from I’m In Your Mind Fuzz showed up on the Polygondwanaland cover.

The rest of the tracks on Polygondwanaland are oozing with style and have myriads of tricks up their sleaves. ‘Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet’ increases the tempo to breakneck speeds, while ‘Inner cell’ is relatively slow and sombre in comparison. Tactfully synthy ‘Loyalty’ and ‘Horology’ provide a nice contrast to remaining portion of the LP. The final track even tricks the listener with a long period of quiet before rearing its ugly head and returning with screeching guitars, like a band pretending they’re leaving before playing an encore at a concert.

Polygondwanaland ranks highly on many people’s lists, and for good reason. Complex instrumentation that doesn’t stay still for long, no bad songs, interesting links to previous albums and many other reasons. My only issue with Polygondwanaland is that ignoring ‘Crumbling Castle’ there aren’t many songs that would turn my head if played individually like ‘Gamma Knife’ from Nonagon Infinity. The songs are merely great, which is why for me it has landed at number 8.

7. K.G.

Highly anticipated. Heavily teased. K.G. had a lot to live up to. Did it meet expectations? I’d say so. K.G. is the 16th album in an endless stream of creativity by our Aussie heroes. Dubbed ‘Explorations into Microtonal Tuning Part 2’ this is a direct sequel to Flying Microtonal Banana and develops ideas formulated in that LP, and mixes in some of its own. On reflection, K.G. refrains from egregious use of microtones, and instead aims to utilise them intelligently throughout its tracks so they don’t overstay their welcome.

K.G. and its sister album L.W. are comparable in many ways, including how they’re linked by the track ‘K.G.L.W.’ In comparison to L.W’s heavy metal finale, K.G’s version accurately sets the tone by focussing primarily on microtones and being light on instrumentation. The next tracks, ‘Automation’ and ‘Minimum Brain Size’ are some of the best songs on the album, with ‘Minimum Brain Size’ having a muted breakdown section that makes my head turn every time.

K.G. is truly the album of silly music videos. In a stroke of genius, King Gizzard combined random trash from Maccies, a green screen and a gardening tool to create ‘Straws in the wind,’ a wonderfully rich and slightly lengthy offering where Joey plays the leaf blower like a saxophone. Brilliant. The next song, ‘Some of Us’ is equally mental. Turning the microtones up to 11, this time the boys played with a thermal camera and doused themselves in hot and cold water. Those with a weak constitution need not apply.

Incredibly intense ‘Ontology’ features a mix of blaring microtonal instrumentation while disco-themed ‘Intrasport’ provides a welcomed, gentle genre shift. Oddly, the ethereal ‘Oddlife’ feels like a subdued finale track. In fact, so does ‘Honey.’ ‘Honey’ drops the electric guitar in favour of something with a more acoustic flavour. Finally actually ending the LP is the surprisingly Black Sabbath-inspired track, ‘The Hungry Wolf of Fate’ that left fans hungry for more. But nothing would come, for that was the end of the LP.

Stocked with back-to-back great ideas and even better music videos, this is when King Gizzard are at their best. By introducing microtones for a second time, King Gizzard allowed K.G. to head in directions that even Flying Microtonal Banana didn’t attempt. Revisiting familiar concepts and pushing boundaries is what makes this album so great. All of the songs are great, they flow well, they have a familiar sound but they’ve been reinvented in a way that’s fresh and incredibly enjoyable. Well worth a listen or ten.

6. I’m In Your Mind Fuzz

Following up from the madness of Oddments, King Gizz decided to take a step back and think about their core sound. This resulted in I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, the 5th album in what seems like an endless barrage of albums. Mind Fuzz has an adjacent sound to Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, except if you remove the 60s blues influences and replace it with an amalgamation of garage rock and heavy effects. Considered by many as the King Gizzard starter pack, Mind Fuzz is approachable, consistent and stylish. The perfect album for Gizzard discovery.

The first four songs fit together so perfectly they could easily be put together into an EP of their own. ‘I’m in your mind’ opens with a smooth repetitive bassline leitmotif that repeats in various ways throughout the LP, with heavy use of delay and reverb creating a thick, rich sound that oozes with depth and details. Instrumental ‘I’m not in your mind’ strips back what the previous song built, but retains that constant bass pattern, slowly building back up again in anticipation of the classic ‘Cellophane’ bassline that we all know and love. Another example of King Gizzard writing songs that repeat the song title over and over, ‘Cellophane’ is a fan favourite everywhere. Tuneful harmonica harmonies with the lead vocals culminating into ‘I’m in Your Mind Fuzz’ which goes out with a bang and fades into nothing.

Enter part two of this LP. King Gizzard go from strength to strength exploring different aspects of psychedelic rock, first getting rid of the guitar shredding of the previous tetralogy and embracing the slower pace of ‘Empty.’ The rhythmic ‘Hot Water’ provides a solid contrast to anthem-like ‘Am I in Heaven’ and deliciously smooth ‘Slow Jam 1.’ Each song idea melds beautifully into the next, as do each of the songs. Modern King Gizzard’s songs have smooth transitions, and this was the first album to fully utilise this giving it a newfound sense of continuity. Equally slow ‘Satan Speeds Up’ and ‘Her and I (Slow Jam 2)’ are the perfect slow jams to end the LP.

I’m in Your Mind Fuzz is an album of two parts, one part utter perfection, the other full of fantastic experimental songs that don’t overstay their welcome. The two complement each other perfectly and leave the listener wanting more making this the perfect LP to direct Gizzard newcomers to.

5. Flying Microtonal Banana

Flying Microtonal Banana is the 9th album overall, the first in the 2017 release rush and my first ever King Gizzard record. The clue is in the name this time. In a stroke of genius, Stu and the boys had their guitars modified to play microtonal notes. Whatever possessed them to do this, we’ll never know. What we do know is that this idea spawned over 25 songs that take full advantage of the art of microtonality.

“Rattlesnake” rattles me. Another fantastic opening track, not only because of the newfound microtonal freedom and its intelligent usage throughout but because it’s another example of King Gizzard’s habit of making songs out of one word. Each track on this LP explores microtonality freshly and uniquely. ‘Melting’ makes its mark by having its vocals match the melody of the walking bass and then ‘Open Water’ ups the pace while introducing droning elements. One of the standout tracks, ‘Sleepdrifter’ brings in the harmonica to great effect, alongside having a great main riff that is a joy to hear each time.

What happens when you mix microtones, Ambrose’s bizarre voice and spaghetti western vibes? A song about outlaws sang to indescribable notes called ‘Billabong Valley.’ ‘Anoxia’ brings things back to the norm, whatever that is on this record, followed by the variable tempo of ‘Doom City.’ Another standout track, ‘Nuclear Fusion’ messes with organs and slows the vocals down to a sludging crawl in sections. If ‘Alluda Majaka’ starts Oddments off with a bang, Flying Microtonal Banana ends with a screech, kicking and screaming until all the instruments break.

Flying Microtonal Banana does not have a single bad song. None. As a concept album, the microtonal concept was executed perfectly, better than its successors K.G. and L.W. As a regular album, all the songs blend as a whole and never overstay their welcome. Highly recommended.

4. Quarters!

Released in 2015, Quarters! is the 6th studio album released by our lovable Aussie rascals. As expected, this time we’re met with a joining in matrimony of jazz and psychedelic rock. As if that wasn’t enough, Ambie and the boys decided to flip the script, mess with the fabric of reality, and release a full-length LP with only 4 songs. That’s right, 4 songs; each of them being 10 minutes and 10 seconds long.

The first song, ‘The River’, is so legendary that it is still played in its entirety to this day. Chilled-out, plucked guitar chords and steady percussion allow the harmony of classic Gizz vocals with the main melody to never overstay its welcome. Due to the length of each song, they do somewhat start to feel more like a jam session than a planned song. You could almost consider it background music, something for a quaint coffee shop or romantic movie. ‘Infinite Rise’ continues the incredibly chilled vibe further, introducing strange sound-bites like the meowing cats, mooing cows, yawning, birds tweeting and even an air raid siren. Every sentence spoken is no longer than 5 words long, using some variation of rhyming or assonance at each turn.

My favourite track ‘God is in the Rhythm’ makes use of a mellow guitar and wistful harmonica throughout like the backing track to a low point in a movie protagonist’s story before the triumphant third act. Quarters! doesn’t require the same amount of attention as some other Gizzard records, it’s incredibly accessible and can be used as background noise for chores or sleeping. The slow tempo of ‘Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer’ makes for a perfect end to a sleepy LP.

Quarters! is definitely a love it or hate it album. If you don’t like one of the songs, that’s one-quarter of the album that you instantly skip when it’s on shuffle. If you do love the songs, it’s an instant winner. All of the songs are extra long, pre-extended for your enjoyment.

3. Nonagon Infinity

If you ask a King Gizzard fan what their favourite Gizz album is, it’s more than likely going to be this one. The 8th album in the infinite singularity of the King Gizzard back catalogue, Nonagon Infinity repeats infinitely. Nine hard-hitting psych-rock tracks, each fading perfectly into the next. Even the final song loops into the first song for a theoretically infinite run-time. How’s that for value?

Nonagon Infinity opens the door with ‘Robot Stop.’ Or, more accurately, bombs the door sending it careening through the air. Nonagon Infinity has plenty of recognisable riffs and vocal melodies, intelligently recycled throughout the tracklist. I’ve always thought the song ‘Big Fig Wasp’ could be modded into Derek Yu’s ‘Spelunky’, with Stu and the boys replacing the wasps in the jungle stage.

There’s no room for stopping on the Nonagon Infinity train, ‘Gamma knife’ relentlessly continues at a breakneck pace introducing well-timed harmonica accents and an easily recognisable guitar riff that’s sure to make the crowd go wild. A personal favourite of mine, ‘People Vultures’ slightly switches the tone making things a little bit darker. The music video shows the entire gang inside of a gigantic paper mache shooting laser beams and mysteriously dressed ninjas. It’s a real trip.

My only complaint about Nonagon Infinity is that its entire premise is a lie. It claims to infinitely loop, but the next song ‘Mr Beat’ completely ruins the flow created by the rest of the songs. ‘Mr Beat’ is like when you accidentally shit your pants while happily farting away, completely taking you out of the experience. Without ‘Mr Beat,’ we could have had a perfect LP on our hands. Regardless of how ‘Mr Beat’ has slighted us and our mothers, we move on and find that epic 7-minute long ‘Evil Death Roll’ continues to innovate with variations in tempo and repeated use of phrases from other songs reinforcing infinite looping theming. Another stand-out track ‘Invisible Face’ expertly uses rhythm in the vocals and ‘Wah Wah’ is the greatest crossover between Wario and King Gizzard. I’m still waiting for the Charles Martinet cover. The final song, ‘Road Train,’ has excellent practical use of the drums to mimic the sound of chugging train wheels, inferring that the train is unending. The train will never stop. There is only King Gizzard, now and forever.

Beloved by all, Nonagon Infinity is an undisputed classic. It’s hard-hitting, looping fun. It’s a shame that ‘Mr Beat’ ruins the pacing near the middle, but the LP recovers and charges forward at full speed until the end (or beginning?) An incredible album, and yet only 3rd on the list.

2. Eyes Like The Sky

Quite fittingly, the 2nd album in the King Gizzard discography is also number 2 on this list. Eyes like the sky is an album like no other. It marries Ennio Morricone style spaghetti western music with spoken word narrative, weaving an incredible story along the way. Written and narrated by none other than the legendary Broderick Smith, our own Ambrose Kenny Smith’s father. Broderick’s expressive narrations add an extra layer of depth to the tracks. This is no half-arsed Audible audiobook.

The story follows a young American turned Yavapai-Apache boy named Miguel O’Brien, his beginnings growing up on a farm, his kidnap by the Yavapai, and him growing up and being trained as a warrior. The plot progresses further than that but I don’t want to spoil it. Echoey instrumentation, quick surf-rock inspired rhythms and slightly sad harmonica compliments all of this incredibly well. As the story progresses, so does the instrumentation. Tribal percussion and chanting come in during Yavapai chapters; ominous dissonant wailing guitar and backing vocals during chapters involving the main antagonist of the story. Narrative shifts are managed masterfully by tonal and instrumental changes, keeping you on your toes until the very end.

Eyes like the sky is quite a divisive album. It requires a lot of attention and doesn’t work when played on shuffle. It’s more like a short audiobook with incredible backing music than an album, but this is what makes it so great. The strong narrative and commitment to the trappings of the Western genre are refreshing. From start to finish, it’s an experience. There’s nothing quite like it, and that’s why it’s so high on this list.

1. Murder of The Universe

We’re finally here, at number one. Whether you’ve skim read every review or skipped directly to number one out of curiosity, here it is. Murder of The Universe is the second of the 2017 pentalogy and 10th LP overall. Prior to Infest the Rats’ Nest this was the heaviest of all albums so far, except with narratively driven spoken word woven expertly throughout. I enjoy this LP so much; it may be my favourite of all time. Either that or Carpenter Brut’s DarkSynth masterpiece Trilogy.

Murder of the Universe is an album of three thirds. The first is ‘The Tale of The Altered Beast,’ a back and forth between beast and human, predator, and prey. Hard-hitting guitar, wailing harmonica, and Stu’s characteristic vocals are balanced out by calm yet slightly sinister spoken word, delivered by Leah Senior. This is the most repetitive section of the album and was one of the reasons why I initially disliked the LP. However, on repeat listens, pieces start to fall into place. Lyrics start to make sense and the story evolves as the LP progresses (if you pay attention.) Murder of the Universe has little moments of perfection, as showcased in ‘Altered Beast III’. After a few songs of back and forth, predator finally finds prey. The tempo. Slowed. Pitch? Lowered into the sludge. Lyrics “I see you, I can see right through” have a different connotation now that the general sound has changed. This is something that King Gizzard do constantly in this third of the LP, have subtle changes in lyric, tone, and tempo to convey a different meaning.

The call of crows, Tibetan-style throat singing and a call back to ‘People Vultures’ from Nonagon Infinity signifies a new story’s beginning. The tale of the epic battle between The Lord of Lightning and Balrog. Leah continues her role as narrator as ‘The Reticent Raconteur’ lays the foundations of tone with a continuous sinister drone. ‘The Lord of Lightning’ is a definite high point of the LP, its frenzied instrumentation demonstrating the chaotic bout between the balrog and the lord. ‘The Lord of Lightning’ has incredibly singable vocals. I can’t count the number of times I and a friend bellowed “ELECTRICITY ESCAPES,” to the annoyance of the rest of our housemates. It even contains a nice little hint towards I’m In Your Mind Fuzz in the bassline for ‘Cellophane’, which I very much appreciate. Fast intense sections in ‘The Balrog’ contrast against slow gurgling sequences in ‘The Floating Fire’ and ‘The Acrid Corpse.’ These magnify the effects of the lyrics, reflecting the state of battle and making the songs exciting to listen to. The story of the Lord and the Balrog ends as it begins, with Leah’s final spoken word segment and with drones that eventually stop, signifying an end.

The spoken word doesn’t stop there though. We swap Leah’s feminine, ever-so-slightly sinister voice for the voice of Han Tyumi. A cold, heartless, robotic voice belonging to a cyborg who sounds suspiciously like Andrew Marr. A welcome shift from the hard-hitting tracks of the Lightning Lord, ‘Welcome To An Altered Future’ expertly uses creepy sounding synths with subtle vibrato to provide a welcome horror vibe. The final third of the LP focuses on Han Tyumi, a cyborg who wants what he cannot have, to die and to vomit. In contrast to Leah, Han Tyumi takes a much more forward approach in his spoken word sections. The culmination of his story results in the absolute masterpiece that is the final track, ‘Murder of the Universe.’ Without too many spoilers, grotesque imagery and ‘A Day In the Life’ style degeneration make this track something to behold. It is the finest final track in all of King Gizzard’s discography.

Murder of the Universe is my favourite King Gizzard LP. It uniquely blends spoken word with psychedelic rock, something that I’ve never seen before. I don’t even own a record player, and yet I bought the vinyl, just so I could display it. I’d recommend it to all but would warn you that it may take multiple listens to really hit home, especially with the slight repetitiveness of the Altered Beast chapter.

That finishes the list! Until I review Butterfly 3000 and make a brand new list… When will it stop? Hopefully never. I hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews, let me know what you thought in the comments, or wherever I end up posting this. Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply