Monday 15 August 2022

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Omnium Gatherum (2022)

Country: Australia
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Apr 2022
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Every time I blink, it seems like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have knocked out a new album. I reviewed both their 2019 albums, Fishing for Fishies and Infest the Rats' Nest, missed K.G. in 2020 but caught L.W. in 2021. I completely failed to notice Butterfly 3000, also a 2021 release, and Made in Timeland, which came out in March of this year. Only a month later, they knocked out this one, a wildly varied eighty minute trip through pretty much every style they've ever played in, plus a few more for good measure.

Just to highlight how long that is, The Dripping Tap is an opener that runs a frantic eighteen minutes but the album would still exceed an hour even had the band left this one off entirely. Fortunately, they kept it in because it's a pristine example of the core King Gizzard sound, a dense psych jam of epic proportions with relatively simple, repeated vocals that became almost hallucinatory, and an interesting spiritual pop theme that opens the song and returns every once in a while. It's exactly what someone new to the band and bewildered by their diverse output should start with, though I would still suggest their Polygondwanaland album first.

The problem here, should we see it as a problem and I think I'm leaning towards doing that, is that The Dripping Tap doesn't sound like anything else here and that's a solid trend. While, in the past, the band has tended to do their genre shifting from album to album, so that Infest the Rats' Nest was internally consistent but very different from Fishing for Fishies, for example, there's a heck of a lot of genre shifting going on within this one. That makes the album's title appropriate, because Omnium Gatherum translates from the Latin as a miscellany, the collection of different things into a single new package.

The psychedelia of The Dripping Tap does give way to more psychedelia in Magenta Mountain and that's followed by still more psychedelia in Kepler-22b, but the former is a rock jam and the latter pair are dream pop songs. They actually work well together as a reminder that psych is a versatile genre, but don't expect the album to stay even that consistent.

For instance, having gone through two different styles in three songs, Gaia shifts clearly from rock to metal. It has a completely different tone throughout, it's built on riffs rather than grooves and jams, and the vocals flirt with harshness. It's a decent song and there's some of that psychedelia in its midsection, but it mostly feels like someone switched the radio station on me and I couldn't find where to switch it back. Predator X is another song that leaps towards metal but doesn't quite get there, remaining in a trendier, more modern American territory, like Static-X than the Voivod meets Pantera style of Gaia, so explaining the song title, I presume.

And yet Gaia rolls into Ambergris, a funky lounge song that feels like it ought to have seen release on some obscure album on a laid back jazz label in the late seventies. What's important is that it's the fourth King Gizzard on this album in only five songs and that shapeshifting is only beginning.

Sadie Sorceress incorporates rap, which I haven't heard in the King Gizzard sound before, though I have to say that it's a fascinating piece of music that I'd actually call out as a highlight. They return to this on The Grim Reaper and that's a thoroughly enjoyable song too. I appreciate the skill that's needed to rap properly than I enjoy most of the results, but these are fun and vibrant songs.

Wherever King Gizzard goes musically, though, psychedelia is never too far away, something that's isolating to a song like Gaia that just doesn't want to do that. The Garden Goblin keeps a rap beat but adds a quirky scenario-based lyric approach that reminds of Madness of all people. It's almost like the Cardigans took acid to cover House of Fun, but wrapping up with a squealy jazz saxophone. Blame It on the Weather sometimes sounds like a mashup of John Kongos and the Bee Gees. Both have psychedelia in there too and Red Smoke returns to the dream pop psych from earlier, almost like a twee cover of the Doors, especially once it gets to the keyboard solo. Candles is even softer and The Funeral finishes up in that vein as a short coda with an ethnic flavour.

The big question that hangs over this album like the Sword of Damacles is whether it manages to find a way to make all this admirable diversity feel consistent enough to make sense. And that's a tough call. Much of it, sure. It's just psychedelic pop/rock exploring its boundaries. But some of it's harder to reconcile. Gaia is a jarring change, as good as it is, and so's Presumptuous in a different way because it's lounge and funk, a chillout with its psychedelia explored with a flute. Where I see the album coalescing best is Evilest Man, a blurring of much of what's going on with these varied songs. It has its psych jams and its dream pop but it's ramped up towards acid-drenched disco and, on occasion, even space rock.

I'm going with a 7/10 here because everything's done really well, even if it doesn't fit, but I realise that I'm stretching. It would be just as valid to give it a 6/10 for including material that would have played better on a different King Gizzard album or as a separate EP. After all, there's maybe forty minutes of consistent material here that would seem both diverse and consistent if the other half was shifted out and the band chose not to do that. I'm seeing it as a mistake. Maybe you won't.

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