Style: Psychedelic Rock
Release Date: 26 Apr 2019
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A friend introduced me to King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard via their 2016 album, Nonagon Infinity, which was a real trip. I adored it, not least its wild concept of having each track roll straight into the next, right down to the last track rolling back into the first one to create what they callled a "never-ending album". After that, I must have blinked, because King Gizzard released no less than five albums the following 2017 before spending 2018 out of the studio.
This is therefore their first album in a whole year and a bit, hardly a huge gap but perhaps an important one after such a blitz of activity in 2016. It has to be said that the title sounds stupid and the cover looks stupid, an elegantly rendered take on what must have been a child's school painting. I gave pause to even listening to the album, but I'm glad I did.
Stu Mackenzie has said that they tried to make a blues album but the songs fought them until the band ultimately let them forge their own paths. "This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation." I'm on board with that because, as the album runs on, it gets harder and harder to describe it as simply as psychedelic rock, the genre usually associated with the band.
There's certainly blues here, most obviously in the driving rhythms and use of a harmonica on quite a few songs. There's still psychedelia too; nobody writes a song called Fishing for Fishies without being under the influence of pharmaceuticals. There's a lot of pop too, but early seventies pop that isn't often heard nowadays. As the track numbers rise, we get a lot of funk too, as well as electronica of various flavours. My son walked in towards the end of the album, and wondered why I was listening to techno.
It was Boogieman Sam, the second track, that gave away the first influence, which is John Kongos, especially his groundbreaking 1972 album Kongos. This is just as incessantly upbeat and just as embracing of pop, rock, blues and gospel as, say, Jubilee Cloud. Plastic Boogie is even more like John Kongos, right down to the samples that he pioneered on He's Gonna Step on You Again, just with a really funky bassline. It's not just a song, it's an event. It sounds like it was recorded in a bar with a wet T-shirt contest ongoing.
The album moves on, though, and so wildly that it's hard to figure out what actually influenced it and what was just trawled in to add another element to a song already full of them. Experimental albums often sound like they were meant to be experimental, but this one, like all the best Frank Zappa albums, feels like it was always meant to be music and the experimentation just came along for the ride.
Acarine starts out like psychedelic rock with a world beat but moves through Tangerine Dream territory until it ends up on the dancefloor. Cyboogie kicks off there and never leaves it; if Boogieman Sam often sounded rather like John Kongos taking on Spirit in the Sky, Cyboogie sounds like the same song remixed by some sort of techno disco demon. The Bird Song feels like Steely Dan dropped acid and jammed in the studio with Prince. We can't help but wonder if Real's Not Real is a mashup of two different songs by the Beatles played simultaneously.
I'm really interested in how this album is going to grow, because it will. I got Nonagon Infinity immediately; it got better with every listen because of how amazingly well done it was, but it didn't get much deeper. Fishing for Fishies, on the other hand, dances so far over the musical map that it isn't easy to grasp the album as a whole. It's almost like, having conjured up an album that effortlessly loops back on itself, they wanted to start at point A and progress, believably but radically to point B, at which point A on a replay seems like a completely different album.
This is good stuff, but it's also ambitious and far reaching stuff. You'll need an open mind to tackle it as a whole, but hey, if you're an Apocalypse Later reader, an open mind kind of comes with the territory. I just think I need a dozen more times through to figure out quite how good it is.
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